Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
There she was, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her entrance had not been glamorous, but her presence was breathtaking. I was thirteen years old and thought, “I want to be just like her one day.”
She smiled widely while her eyes sparkled; long dark hair had been modestly wrapped behind her head. She looked happy. Calm. Her husband had just introduced her to the crowd and she swept in from behind the audience, never taking her eyes from him.
I never took my eyes off her.
From the platform she spoke in an Eastern European accent. Curiously, her husband had become famous for his suffering; his story of unjustified prison-time was told around the world. She was lesser known yet had paid perhaps the greater price, struggling behind the scenes under threat. Then she too had been sent to prison under an unwarranted charge and lost a mother’s greatest joy, that of raising her child.
I’d heard of peace that comes from somewhere outside of one’s circumstances. Until now I’d not seen it live and in person. It stood there, fearless and unmasked. Unwavering, peace told a story louder than the woman’s words.
As she gave an account of all-encompassing pain, the loveliness of peace captivated me. The speaker was not tall and statuesque. Her skin was not wrinkle-free. As far as I could tell she wore no makeup, and her clothes were not the latest fashion. Peace was the star of the moment and glowed from the face of the most beautiful woman in the world.
I still want to be just like her one day.
What is it Sabina Wurmbrand knew that I did not? She was a world-traveler, a scholar and pastor, had written at least one book, and with her husband had started a world-famous mission. She was a Jew who had lived through the holocaust, and was later arrested for being Christian. She had life experience and expertise. No doubt she could have been eloquent in philosophy, history, politics, and theology. She could have fascinated audiences with only her story.
Instead, she didn’t leave it there. She gave a reason for the hope by which she lived day-to-day. That story is the one we hear about on Easter – that Jesus was crucified, buried, then rose again. He once said that if he was lifted up he would draw everyone to himself. The cross lifted him up, and so did the most beautiful woman in the world.
There’s a section in the Bible that says God saw to it that no one would ever know him through human wisdom. Instead he uses foolish preaching to save those who believe. The Easter story is foolish to some people because they want to see proof, a sign from heaven, so to speak. Others seek human wisdom. So when believers talk about the cross, listeners who are not believers may be offended or else say it’s all nonsense.*
Sabina had faith that the foolish plan for God’s Son to die for our sins was wiser than the wisest of human plans, and that God’s weakness has always been stronger than the greatest of human strength. Surviving a prison camp and forced labor, physical and mental trauma, concern for a husband gone for years knowing he was being tortured, her heart broken over missing her son, Sabina experienced what she knew Jesus to be – the power and wisdom of God.
That faith fed her hope, and as that hope stretched through hours of anguish, it produced a lasting peace that showed on her face. She may have once been ordinary, but no longer. My just-turned-teenager eyes saw the extraordinary .
She was quite simply the most beautiful woman in the world.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
-pictures from qualitystockphotos.com
*1 Corinthians 1:20-25