One of the things that my family is not really known for is giving hugs. While I grew up with two loving parents, expressing it through hugging wasn’t necessarily “our thing.” For me, learning how to give and embrace hugs was something I had to learn how to do in ministry. Particularly since hugging is a way many people embrace others whom they care about in their lives.
A simple hug is a powerful way people can express their compassion for others. When permitted, a hug can especially be used to express compassion for others in times of struggle.
One of the ways Jesus showed compassion for those in scripture was through touch. While scripture shows us stories of how Jesus healed those with leprosy by a simple touch, his touch did far more than physically heal them. It also brought them comfort and empathy in showing they were not suffering alone.
The healing touch that comes from the hand of a friend as a man waits for the results of an important medical test. The healing touch that comes from that colleague at work who takes a moment and listens to a co-worker talk about her troubled marriage. The healing touch of the one who prays with a stranger. The healing touch of a warm smile of a woman that offers warm soup during a homeless shelter. The healing touch of holding hands with that the person next to you during a prayer service.
In the book entitled “Lament for a Son” theologian and writer Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects through various writings his grieving process after the death of his 25-year-old son who died during a rock climbing accident. And during the series of reflections which captures his anger, pain, and his terrible sadness, he comes to the conclusion that not only was God with his son as he fell down that mountain, but that God shared in his suffering as he grieved the loss of his son. Especially since God I also knew what it felt like to lose a child.
Nicholas Wolterstorff writes: “God is not the God of the suffers, but the God who suffers. The pain and fallness of humanity have entered into God’s heart. Through the prism of my tears, I have seen a suffering God.”
Even in the world which there is so much suffering, God is finding a way to bring healing into our lives. And often it’s through the simple touch of others.
While all of us will continue to be ‘in the waiting’ for the day that we do find a cure to our suffering, we are reminded that until this day comes, we are not alone. For it’s through the hands of those filled with warmth and compassion, that we are able to share our sense of suffering with those who have compassion for us and with God.
Whether it be through holding hands to pray with a stranger at church, a comforting pat on the back from a co-worker, or through a hug from a loved one, may we find ways to be embraced by the healing touch of God and may we also be able to bring a healing touch to so many others who need it in their lives.