The joy of helping carry a burden far outweighs the pain shared, but so often fear of pain turns us into islands, untouched by the tangle of heartache or sickness. I don't want to bean island but truthfully, sometimes it is appealing because it is so comfortable, demands so little from me, lets me experience the world on my own terms. Seeing life through another's experience is profoundly disquieting, and when it adjusts me, even more so.

Ministering to people over more than 50 years has taught me that often a listening ear is far more valuable that an instructing tongue, that opinion and wisdom seldom sit at the same table, and that it is easy to say “The Lord told me” but not so easy to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.” Why is it that so often we feel a sense of failure if we cannot come up with a ready answer to someone’s need?

This is why I take courage from this description of the heart of our Lord Jesus: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) He follows this up by telling the disciples to look up and see the ripe harvest. I believe what the Master was saying is that the pain and suffering people endure ripens them for the Gospel, and when we open ourselves to others in compassion, there is a great harvest for His Kingdom.

Praying for the sick, the needy and the suffering, allows us for a moment to look at people through the eyes of Christ and see what He sees. Such prayer needs no formula, just the simple request for God to do what only HE can do. Invariably this means that love destroys judgment, and we end up saying with Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”