Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Does Compassion Look Like?

So let me remind you of the Eternal’s enduring love, and why we should praise Him.
    Let me tell you again how the Eternal gives and gives and gives.
All God’s wonders and goodness are done for Israel’s benefit
    according to His great mercy and compassion.
~ Isaiah 63:7, VOICE ~

See if you recognize this scenario...  You try to describe everything you are going through with your child who has special needs or a chronic illness.  You are trying to coordinate care with more than one doctor.  Challenges at the school are mounting, and it looks like you will need to pull in an advocate to get your child on track with appropriate accommodations in the best possible learning environment.  The insurance company is rejecting your claims, and the medical collection service is flooding you with nasty phone calls and letters.  All you want to do is hold your child close, assuring them that everything will be okay.  Yet, you've got to get out the door to work one of your two jobs that helps your family survive.

You share with someone who has a "typical" family your overwhelm, because the weight of life is just too heavy to carry on your own.  Their response?

"I know JUST how you feel!"

Talk about adding insult to injury!  Words like that can't help but be denigrating.

Every e-mail I send is signed with our ministry's key verse from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (NIV, emphasis mine)  Telling someone you know just how they feel when you have not walked their same path is neither compassionate nor comforting.  Still, comments like this spill out of people's mouths with way too much ease.

With the breakneck speed at which everyone seems to be running these days, compassion seems to be in very short supply.  Compassion is not throwing money at a cause or wearing an awareness ribbon, although those things are needed.  Compassion is not saying, "Gee, I'm sorry.  I'll be praying for you."  Compassion is not even serving at a charity because you think you are doing them a favor.

If you read the dictionary definitions of the word "compassion", you will see that there is a great yearning in the heart to alleviate the suffering of another.  I would add to that definition feeling compelled to mercyYes, many in this world want to see our suffering end.  Yet, too few want to make themselves significantly uncomfortable to do it.

While I rail here against the world's lack of compassion, I praise God that He always seems to find a way to send someone who IS compassionate, merciful, and comforting into our lives at just the right time.  Although most people seem to have a knack for pouring acid on our wounds, God extends His lovingkindness to us through that rare person who has been conformed to the image of Christ through their suffering.

When I think of this word, several people come to my mind:  I think of my friend, Tami, who showed up with her cute little wicker picnic basket to have refreshments on the floor with my young children, while she sent me away for a break.  I think of my sister, Carol, who, amongst the many other mercies she extended me, established the tradition of taking my children to "Boo at the Zoo" and had them for a sleepover.  I think of the precious souls like Chris, who coordinated meals for me when my son got out of the hospital.  I think of the precious souls like Margo, Carrie, Jennifer, and Sue who showed up on my doorstep, completely unprompted, because they saw the crushing weight I was bearing.

These individuals didn't wag their finger at me, telling me that I do too much.  They didn't chatter with unsolicited advice.  They didn't get agitated with me because my life is messy.  They tenderly inconvenienced themselves with love because they wanted to alleviate my suffering.

Friends, it is our duty to show a harsh and self-centered world what compassion looks like.  As it says in the passage from 2 Corinthians, we are comforted in order that we might show comfort!  It is our duty to push back the darkness of this world, to stand out amongst a sea of people lacking in true mercy for others, with the same grace-filled compassion we have received from our Father.

May God's matchless goodness have an enormous ripple effect as it pours out of us!

PRAY:  Sweet Abba Father, thank You for your tender mercy and love towards me, especially when I am wounded and overwhelmed.  Holy Spirit let what You pour into me flow out of me, bringing You the glory that You are due.

~ Barb Dittrich


  1. God, give me a heart for others filled with compassion and mercy as I know I want to receive the same from You and others!

    1. Amen! And, Ann, this unintendedly springboards a bit off of Ellen's post yesterday: I need grace, and I need it to be poured through me.