Paid in Full
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers them in times of trouble. — Psalm 41:1
Suffering, in all its various forms, is a universal human experience. While there often isn’t an answer to the question why suffering exists, there are many answers to how we can respond to the suffering of others. Our devotions explore how God comforts us, and how we can comfort others in times of suffering.
A story is told about a young man who was walking in the woods one hot summer day. This was during the late 1800s so when he became overcome with fatigue, hunger, and thirst, help wasn’t so easy to find. The young man decided to knock on the first door that he saw.
When he found a home, he resolved to ask for water, nothing more. A young girl opened the door but when the young man asked for water, she decided that he looked hungry and brought a large glass of milk instead. That milk gave the young man the energy he needed and bolstered his spirits so that he could make it home.
Years later, that little girl grew up and became very sick. She was sent to the city so that she could be treated by one of the nation’s top doctors. As she underwent surgery, Dr. Howard Kelly recognized the patient who he was treating — it was that little girl who had been so kind to him years ago. After the surgery, Dr. Kelly asked that all medical bills for the patient be sent to him for approval. As he looked them over, he scrawled something in black ink. When the woman recovered and was ready to leave the hospital, she was nervous to open the final bill. When she did, she was surprised to find this note from the doctor: “Paid in full with one glass of cold milk.”
In the opening line of Psalm 41, David wrote: “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.” Those who are kind to others in their time of need will find that help comes to them when they themselves are in need.
In the Talmud, the Jewish sages tell a similar story about a man known as Benjamin the Righteous who single-handedly supported a widow and her seven sons during years of famine. Sometime later, he became very ill and was on the brink of death when angels pleaded before God: “Is it not written that he who saves a life, saves an entire world? Is it right that a man who saved the lives of a widow and her seven sons die so young?” Immediately Benjamin’s death sentence was torn to pieces and 22 years were added to his life.
In Hebrew, the word “to give,” natan, is a palindrome. It reads the same way backward and forward in order to teach us that when we give, we also get back. May we always be motivated to give generously and live compassionately. We can save many lives with our charity, including our own.
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