Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn
‘Tis the season to be jolly – and kind
to people struggling with
Even though Christmas is “the most wonderful time of
the year,” many of us find it difficult to wear a “Joy to the world” face all
the time. Sickness
and pain never take a holiday. They are always with us.
This month I have already visited five people at home or in the hospital who
are struggling to live. Cancer is the culprit in most cases. One dear woman is
heavily sedated in a hospital bed only three feet from the Christmas tree she
decorated two weeks ago. Joy can give way to sadness in the twinkling of an
One moment I am offering comfort to the family of a dying
loved one. The next I am celebrating the birth of twin girls with young parents
who are all smiles. Hours later I am consoling a man whose sister has just died
after a long illness. That is life – a mixture of sadness and joy, good and
evil, tough times and good times.
Should those who are enjoying life stop celebrating because
others are struggling with sorrow and sadness? By no means.
To do so would be unthinkable.
What makes sense is for the happy people to care about
those who are hurting – and to offer a little tender, loving care. Caring may
be demonstrated in a hundred different small ways. Each of us can find a way
that feels comfortable to us.
The gift of food is always appreciated. It does not need to
be much. A homemade cake or a tray of cookies can brighten the day of someone
who feels lonely, depressed, discouraged, or perhaps forgotten. A small bouquet
of flowers will cheer up most anyone. Simply to show up and let a friend know
you care can make a difference.
Even a card or a telephone call can mean a lot. I kept
thinking about a friend of mine in another state far away. His wife had died. I
imagined he was lonely. So I called him.
He seemed genuinely glad that I had called. Suddenly I
realized how important my call may have been. Not only was my friend lonely, he
had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I fought back the tears as he
said, “I’m going home soon and I am ready to go; I’ll get to be with my wife
again and I am eager to see her.”
For several seconds he heard nothing in reply from me. It was
one of those rare moments when I was speechless. Finally I stammered and said,
“My brother, I wish I could be with you one more time – just to let you know
how much you have meant to me.”
With a firm voice he replied, “I would love to see you too.
But if we don’t see each other again down here, I’ll be waiting to see you up
there, in the Father’s House.”
After hanging up the telephone I sat quietly for a few
minutes, asking God to bless my friend and thanking God that I had called. I
remembered earlier days, almost 40 years ago, when our families had shared a
vacation together. Our children think of it as the best vacation we ever had.
We were young and vigorous then. We had life by the tail.
Our days were filled with laughter and enthusiasm. We shared our stories of
God’s undeserved grace and our dreams for ourselves and our children.
Now we are old. His wife is gone and his health is failing.
We talk more of heaven than our dreams. We are in a time of transition, more
aware than ever before that our days are numbered.
But despite all the problems we can still rejoice. We are
not immersed in sadness. We refuse to
let sorrow rob us of our joy. We choose to rejoice in all that is good and to
ask for grace to endure all that is bad.
Hopefully the years have given us a more mature
understanding of what it means to be joyful. Our outlook is seasoned by loss
and pain to the point that we understand better than the young how to cope with
We realize most of all that our joy is always increased whenever
we take the time to care about those who are struggling with sadness. We no
longer look for “a season to be jolly” but have accepted joy and sorrow as
necessary ingredients of a life worth living. + + + +