Luke 18:16 – But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (NIV)
When I was a little kid, I was used to this verse saying: "But Jesus called them unto him and said, suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God".
Kids sometimes just let things bother them without asking questions, and adults sometimes don't realize that something is bothering the kids. And that scripture bothered me because I wondered why a God who cared for us would want little kids to "suffer" to be allowed into heaven. I used to think that the kids who suffered physical, emotional and verbal abuse or afflictions would go to heaven for sure, but wondered why it had to be.
I later learned that the word "suffer" really meant "let" or "allow", and still later, Bibles got re-written to be more modern, as in the scripture above. But, as some things do, the original version always sort of stuck with me, only now, as I am increasingly with terminally ill people, I think of it as "suffer as little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God."
You see, it doesn't matter the disease or affliction, be it losing one's faculties to Alzheimer's, or the multitude of other insidious disabling illnesses. They suffer as they lose their ability to remember; to recognize familiar faces and things; to drive; to walk; to move from bed to chair; to dress, feed and toilet themselves. They suffer having to rely on someone else to once again do everything for them, as they did as little children at the beginning of their life.
Families and friends suffer as little children also, helpless to stop the disease as they try to cope with caring for and losing their loved ones.
And yet, it is from these very people that we are given a glimpse of the face of God, the kingdom of heaven. They teach us love and respect; humility and humbleness; peace and grace. They teach us to care for one another and for all God gives us. They teach us to appreciate mist on a maple leaf and wind wafting across water. Though they suffer as children in the process of dying, they teach us the beauty of living, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, help us to see that with pain comes peace; with suffering, salvation; and with death, life. Bless those who suffer as children to come unto you. Be with families and friends as they share the journey with their loved ones. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.