There was once a season in my life that our house was frequently filled with teenage boys. I loved watching them and listening to them – that wonder of youth – as these young boys wrestled to find their place between boyhood and manhood. They often reminded me of a bunch of little bantam roosters trying to gain a position of power and respect as they tried to out-do one another with comical feats of strength. And then there were the discussions about past injuries….tales of broken bones, stitches, bumps and bruises – each one bigger, more painful, and more gruesome than the last. It was a verbal contest to see who could – or had – endured the most pain. The memory of those young voices losing control of both pitch and volume in their passionate and prideful speeches still makes me smile.
However, this morning as I reflected on those youthful conversations, I was reminded of how often we as adults do the same thing. We compare those painful trials in our lives to others and measure our own strength in light of someone else’s life. Sometimes this human tendency to scale and compare suffering can be beneficial and can help us put our own discomfort into perspective. I remember when I was a teenager and feeling sorry for myself, my mother would often remind me that I rarely needed to look far to find someone else whose ordeals and hardships appeared to far outweigh mine own. Most of my complaints were based on discontentment with that which was mine and a longing for something more or better. This reminder to look outside of myself for a minute also reminded me of the abundance for which I had to be thankful, and I would usually discover that peace and contentment quickly followed gratitude.
But I there have also been times in my life that regardless of whether or not the trial through which I was suffering paled in comparison someone else’s pain, I was still hurting none-the-less. It is the memory of those painful experiences that I pray intensify my compassion for those who are hurting around me. We cannot count the number of stitches it takes to bind up a broken heart – if the heart is broken, it is simply broken and it does not matter if we are wounded by a dying child or an absentee husband or some other trial – we are still wounded.
Sometimes comparing wounds brings us little comfort, but remembering that we were and are helpless to heal our own pain can not only open our hearts to the pain around us, but should also give us a desire to take those who are hurting to the only one who can restore hope and joy. We will all suffer at some point in our lives and it is that suffering that most often serves to remind us we live in a broken and fallen world, but what a joy to know that we can use the comfort which we’ve been given to encourage another and lead another wounded soul to the only one who can truly bind up the broken hearted.