I am on my way back from a trip to Mongolia and wanted to share something God showed me. When I go to countries that have very little access to pediatric heart surgery, if any at all, I frequently see patients who are either too late for surgery or their surgical repair would be so complex that trying to find a way to get the child’s heart repaired seems impossible. I really dread these situations and wish I would never have to make a mother cry again. When I have to have these difficult discussions with families I always try to work into our conversation God’s comfort. But even I as I say these words, they often seem trite. Many of these families were not raised with a concept of a loving and compassionate God and, even if they were, in the midst of their pain no words ever seem to be appropriate or helpful.
I was having such a discussion with the mother of a two-year-old who has a large hole in her heart and lacks a blood vessel from her heart to her lungs. The two-year-old was what I affectionately call a Smurf. She was as blue as the cartoon character and just as animated. Her smile brightened the room and her playfulness brought joy to all who watched her. I started explaining to the mother the problem with her daughter’s heart. After a couple of sentences the mother’s eyes filled with tears and they slowly rolled down her face. With each following sentence I felt as if I was pouring salt into her wounds. I explained the defects in detail, followed by how the heart would need to be repaired and that she would need multiple surgeries. Finally, to top it all off, I went on to say that I was not even sure where she could be repaired as most humanitarian projects would not undertake so complex a repair and the family did not have the resources to go out of the country. As the mother cried, the cute little blue girl cocked her head to the side and stared at her mother quizzically, probably wondering why her mother was crying. She then asked me what would happen if we did nothing. As I thought about my response, my thoughts turned to the mother and how much horrible news she could take in such a short period. As I explained that I did not know how long her daughter would live, I also told her that her child could also die from a simple cold.
What could I possible say to this mother? Was there any way that I could help her find comfort in God? I absolutely believe that God comforts the afflicted but how do I transition from “your child has a complex heart defect that will require multiple surgeries that you cannot get in your country and you are too poor to go elsewhere, and she might die before she gets treated” to “God loves you and will comfort you. Go in peace.” Saying something like that would be ridiculous. So again, I was asking, “What could I say? Then God whispered the answer. My thoughts went to her heavy burden, so I started’ “Everything I have told you is a very heavy burden for you to carry. It is so heavy that you should not carry this burden alone.” I then went on, “When I am at the airport, I often see two people sharing the load of carrying a duffle-bag with each person holding a handle. I believe that Jesus wants to help you carry this burden and I encourage you to let Him take one of the handles of this burden you are carrying.” As the translator finished I watched a glimmer of hope and relief enter into the mother’s eyes and she asked how could she ask Jesus to help carry the load. I was relieved as well as I felt God had showed me a way to provide encouragement in a very difficult and seemingly hopeless situation. I presume I will need to use what He taught many more times in the days to come.