Can an individual see pain in another and not somehow feel sorrow? Can a father see his child cry out and not feel bad, too? Can a mother hear her baby groan in pain and not hurt?
No, no! never can it be!
We become numb to pain and suffering, don’t we? After all, we see so much of it around us. Most of us turn our gaze from TV, newspaper, and Internet pictures of war, genocide, and poverty. It’s probably not because we have cold hearts as much as it is because we see hurt all around us and we feel helpless to do anything about all of it. After all, there is pain right here in my family. How can I worry about the people in faraway places when I can’t even handle what is going on in my own house?
But even more personal, what about my own pain? How can I possibly deal with the pain of others when I can’t even get a handle on the pain in my own life?
But is this what the writer is talking about? Is he asking whether we have the capacity to bear everyone’s pain? Or is he asking whether we, as human beings, have the innate ability to feel pain when others feel pain? I believe the latter. I think that as these words flow on the author is wanting to make the point that within the hearts and souls of each and every one of us there is an ability to see pain and then sense the same pain in ourselves. Where does this ability come from?
And can he who smiles on all…
Here we are obviously talking about God. The poem talked about the pity shown by a person, a father, a mother, and now God. The God who sees all and smiles on all. He not only notices birds and people but he, too, feels pity and sadness when he sees hurt, pain, and suffering in them. When God feels hurt in others, he will be by the nest or the cradle day and night with tears in his eyes.
But along with sitting and waiting and being patient, he is also wiping tears away from our eyes. He wipes our tears away when we are hurting.
And how does he do this so well?
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He doth feel the sorrow too.
God sent Jesus as a babe and the babe grew into a man. A man of sorrows and a man of empathy. He hurts for others and he feels hurt within himself. Jesus feels sorrow, grief, pain, and suffering. God, through his son Jesus, feels every pain and hurt that we feel.
Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy maker is not near.
Every sigh and every tear is known to God. And he is always near.
Like a nurturing father or a loving mother who willingly sits all day and all night with their sick young one, God will likewise sit with us until our tears are dry. He will replace our tears with his joy. And he will sit with us for as long as he has to sit.
O! he gives to us his joy
That our grief he may destroy;
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan.
I think the clear message in these words is that while there is plenty of pain to go around, God will always be where there is suffering. And because God is so empathetic – he himself saw and felt pain as Jesus here on earth – he knowingly works to remove pain from anyone and everyone that has, does, and will feel pain. Also and because we are created in the image of God, we, too, can feel and empathize with those who are feeling pain. And perhaps there will be times when we are called on to nurse the pain of someone else. Well, can we do it? Of course we can! We can do it because God does it for us. And with God in each of us, we, too, can sit out the pain with others just as many will sit with us in our pain.
What a blessing!