During the tail end of RSV season earlier this year, I accompanied by best friend and her two little boys to the doctor’s office. The 2-month-old was going in for a regular checkup, the 2-year-old for what we thought was a severe cold, but which we discovered was RSV.
Having two babies and three adults in a room the size of a walk-in closet was a recipe for chaos. Add in immunizations, and unforeseen nasal swabs and chest x-rays, and the chaos only intensified.
Yet, in the midst of this hectic scene, I glimpsed God’s heart in the interaction between my best friend and her 2-year-old.
After one nasal swab, the 2-year-old was on the verge of tears. The chest x-ray brought on the tears. The second nasal swab pushed him over the edge.
Sitting in his mom’s lap, he glanced up at her with the most pained look I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just the fatigue brought on by the virus, but what seemed to be the injustice of everything he had just experienced. He couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t breathe, why someone was ramming a cotton rod up his nose (twice), or why he had to be physically pinned down for a big machine to take pictures of him. He could only articulate this through tears and an expression that seemed to ask, “Why? Why am I having to go through all of this? I don’t understand.”
My best friend looked back at him; her expression mirroring his. I watched her cry with him, rock him, and merely say, “I know baby. I know.”
I love this kid like he’s my own flesh, so in witnessing this interaction, I too began to cry.
This empathetic response moved me to the core. Both because my friend’s reaction exemplified what it means to enter into someone else’s suffering, but also because it was a reflection of how God identifies with us in our sorrow.
Like my best friend’s 2-year-old, we often look up to God with the same pained, and confused, expression. Surrounded by the chaos of our lives, and the real or perceived injustice we’re experiencing, we often question, “Why? Why am I going through this? I don’t understand.”
And, I think God responds in the same way my best friend did. He acknowledges our pain and disillusionment; his response mirroring ours. He cries with us, and merely says, “I know child. I know.”
In moments of deep anguish and uncertainty, God rarely responds with answers or “fixes.”
However, he always responds with empathy.