The Gospel of John begins with Jesus stating, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He goes on to comfort the disciples by promising that after he is gone God will provide the Holy Spirit to help guide them. Notice that at no time does Jesus say, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be great from now on!” Instead, he tells them that he is going on ahead to prepare a place where they will eventually arrive in the future. In essence, he is saying that things are going remain tough for a while longer, but help is coming. The Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit in verse 16 is Paraclete. The roots of this word originally signified “Called to one’s side,” but it has also been understood as meaning comforter, advocate, or intercessor. A Paraclete is a witness.
In many ways, our hospital caregiving team is made up of Paracletes much like the advocate Jesus promises. While medicine can often improve bodily conditions, we cannot take away the reality of sickness, injury, or death in this world. We can however be called to the side of those suffering to provide comfort and bear witness to what they are going through. Grief can only be absorbed by communities which have the audacity to lean in and say, “I see that you are hurting.” Beyond all our technology, skill, and training lies the human caregiver who is called to be this witness. Let us not forget that we treat more than the body and may our community hear us saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, for I will stand by your side and be your witness.”