Loving Leads to Pain

Lahai Health staff were privileged to attend the recent national conference of Christian Community Health Fellowship (CCHF).  The mission of CCHF is to encourage, educate and equip Christians to live out the gospel through health care among marginalized communities.

We were educated and equipped as we attended workshops on providing medical, dental, and counseling services for low-income patients. We heard and shared stories with others across the country who, like us, share the love of Christ through the health care they provide. We were blessed and encouraged because God is at work!

One of my favorite passages came up over and over again: Philippians 3:10-11:  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

It’s a favorite because I do want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection! Yet as I heard stories, I realized I had not considered what it means to share in the sufferings of Christ.  My understanding increased as I heard  stories from our speakers.

Kelly*, an executive director of a clinic on the east coast, shared that God had called her to move into the community where her clinic is located.  Her patients became her neighbors…and her friends.  The neighborhood kids were the first to welcome her.  She loved the kids, and through them, came to know and love their parents.

In this neighborhood, shootings and other violent crimes are daily occurrences.  One day, one of her teen friends was shot; Kelly’s youngest friends saw the shooting.   She was deeply grieved, both because she lost a friend and because her young friends and their parents suffered pain through this incident.  Kelly suffered along with her neighbors, and she grew in her understanding of what it means to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Kathy* is a family doctor who took a job at an inner city clinic in Los Angeles.  As she cared for her patients, she heard their stories.  One young mom went through a painful divorce, and Kathy walked with her through that journey.   Another died of a chronic treatable disease, and would have lived if care had been available sooner.  She understood in a new way that she, as a doctor, could not heal her patients.  Their needs were huge and encompassed much more than physical healing.  She prayed with her patients, acknowledging that only God was sufficient in the midst of suffering.  Because Kathy loved her patients and their families, she felt their pain.  In a new way, she understood what it means to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Though both Kelly and Kathy shared in the pain of their neighbors and patients, they would not have traded the calling that God gave them for anything! Although they had made sacrifices to obey God, I could tell from their faces that they had experienced joy in the suffering.  Their experiences remind me of Matthew 19:29:  “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

As I reflected on these women’s experiences, it seems that when we love others in the way of Jesus, and consequently share in the pain of those we love, we are sharing in Christ’s sufferings.

Of course, I had to ask:  “Have I ever shared in Christ’s sufferings?”  Yes…at least at little!

I shared in his suffering when God brought a baby girl to our home who was exposed to drugs and alcohol during her birth mother’s pregnancy…and when hurting people knock on the door at Lahai Health looking for dental care, but we cannot provide it because we do not have the resources…and when I see the impact of our broke health care system on our patients’ overall health…

How about you?  What are your experiences in sharing in the sufferings of Christ?

*Names change to protect privacy.