This post is dedicated to a dear friend of mine, Peggy Parks, who was one of the most compassionate individuals I was blessed to know. Rest in Peace Peggy and enjoy the beauty of heaven!
Have you ever felt compelled by compassion? I hope that we all could respond positively to that question, but I had an opportunity a short time ago to experience this on a different level.
Recently I shared a blog post called “Restore” where I described a difficult personal journey. It seems many have experienced similar circumstances and could relate closely to this teaching. I was invited to share that lesson at our annual Women’s Retreat for the Southern Missouri District of the Assemblies of God.
Every year there are specific mission’s projects that the women’s department sponsors. The theme for this is “Compelled by Compassion”. I sat there in that mission’s service listening to this year’s focus projects, and my heart was so full of compassion unlike I had ever experienced before.
In the afternoon, before it was time for me to share my “Restore” message, I was asked to assist during a prayer service where we prayed for women who had specific needs. As I listened to each one share with me what they needed prayer for, my heart was so sensitive to their pain. As I began my lesson, I realized I was in an unusual state after these activities. I was trying to get through my introduction, feeling very emotional, and I happened to turn where I could see over my shoulder the Mission Theme Banner that said those words, “Compelled by Compassion”. In that moment, I had a realization that this was exactly what I was experiencing! I was being compelled by compassion on an unfamiliar level!
Why was that? I could think of many reasons. In my previous state, I was so overwhelmed that there was no room in my mind to be as sensitive to others. In some situations, I was feeling enough pain myself, that I wanted to block out the pain of others. I also think in my situation, I was running at such breakneck speed that I was doing two or three things at once and never stopping to be “In the moment” that I was currently experiencing.
Some of these responses are simply habits and choices that we can make a decision to change, but some can only be changed when we allow the Lord to do a work in our own heart and restore our soul. I began to realize that since experiencing my own “Restore” journey that I my heart had changed, I was sensing things that I was overlooking before, I was feeling compassion on a different level, and I actually had a totally different perspective on aspects of life that I was previously oblivious to.
As Christians, I believe that we should be different. The challenge is that often we are living life so broken that there isn’t any capacity left to show love and compassion for others. Often our lives are so busy that there is no margin left in our lives to express love and compassion. Lastly, as hard as it is to hear, there are times we are just simply too self-absorbed in thinking about our own needs and desires to open our hearts to show love and compassion to others.
I have to be honest, I still fail at times in these areas, but I am so much more aware of the pain, suffering, and needs of others than I was before this journey. I realize that I can’t be everything for everybody, but if all of us could be compelled by compassion and love, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, how much differently would this world be?
Philippians 2:1-5 NLT
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Compassion is defined as, “Sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”1 Jesus was the ultimate example of compassion. Look at a few examples.
Matthew 14:14 NLT
Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Mark 1:40-41 NLT
A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”
Mark 6:34 NLT
Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Luke 7:12-15 NLT
A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
All of these are examples of times Jesus had a, “Sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”!1 There are many more examples of times He was moved with compassion during His ministry, but I want to show you an example of what I call ultimate compassion. We see this example when He was dying on the cross. Not only did He love you and me enough to bare all those stripes for our healing, and pay the supreme price of His death for our salvation, but also while He was enduring unbelievable agony and suffering, He saw those in pain around Him.
Jesus had compassion on the thief who was dying on one side of Him during His own crucifixion. He told him, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
We also read that while He was on the cross He had compassion for His mother.
John 19:25-27 NLT
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.
During His own agony, He was making sure His mother was going to be cared for when He was gone. What an example for us to follow. The Word tells us in Luke 6:36 NLT, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate”.
Too often, we feel that if we are suffering, we get a pass on showing love and compassion to others, but I believe Jesus shows us a different example.
If you are like me, you are likely thinking it is a tall order. The good news is that the Christ in us enables us to love and express compassion this way. Perhaps you are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, often known as the “Love Chapter”.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NLT
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
I often say that in my own humanness, I cannot love the way this passage defines love, but the Christ in me can! If we will open ourselves to God and let Him do the work in our own hearts, we can have the capacity to love this way with His help.
I believe we are living in a time where showing Christ’s love and compassion is more critical than ever before; not only to our fellow believers, but also to a lost and dying world. The world we live in is dark and it is getting darker!
Think about it a different way. How many of you like the dark? I like it to be dark if I want to look at the stars or if I want to sleep. Darkness often does different things to different people.
Some may like the dark, because it provides cover or protection. For example, deer season is upon us and my husband likes to be in his stand when it is still dark in the morning or until it is dark at night. The darkness provides him cover so the deer don’t see him, and the deer are braver to move out in the open when it is dark.
For some darkness brings fear. Fear can lead to panic. Sometimes fear leads to people turning inward or to self-preservation mode.
Sometimes darkness leads to hopelessness, weariness, or depression. I remember when I first started working in the home medical industry, someone called wanting to know if we could provide a SAD lamp. I had never heard of such a thing and immediately misunderstood the request. I thought they meant “sad” as an emotion, but SAD is actually an abbreviation for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can often be treated by artificial light. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing SAD symptoms.
At times darkness can compel us. If you have a power outage in the evening when there is no outside light, you are compelled to do something about it. You will find either some candles, a flashlight, or some source of artificial light.
Why did I give these examples? Because I want us to think about how we are allowing the darkness of the world we live in to affect us, specifically how is it affecting our ability to show love and compassion?
Are we using the darkness as a cover? Do we have an attitude that because the world is getting darker and darker our efforts don’t make a difference or no one will notice or expect me to express compassion?
Are we allowing the darkness to bring fear that is causing us to turn inward and be in self-preservation mode? Are we only worrying about our own needs and ourselves?
Are we allowing the darkness to bring sadness, hopelessness, or weariness? Do we have the mentality that we have carried the torch long enough and we are tired, it is someone else’s turn?
On the other hand, are we allowing the darkness to compel us to do something? Are we looking for ways to let our light shine in a way that demonstrates the love and compassion of Christ through us?
Jesus said, “….I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12 NKJV
Another familiar passage found in Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV reads like this:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
In closing, I want to share a story that Jesus shared, one that is familiar to most about the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:30-37 NLT
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Jesus said, “Go, and do the same”! I believe He is counting on us as His children to be His feet and hands extended, to show love and compassion to those around us.
I have a few questions for you to consider. Are you still so broken yourself that you have no capacity to show compassion on others? If that is the case, He wants to restore your soul!
Are you in a place where you have no margin left in your life? I realize there are times when we have many priorities and many things to do, but if you hear yourself constantly saying, “I don’t have time!” Maybe you need to get alone with God and ask Him to show you where you need to make some changes. If we are honest with ourselves, we really have time for the things that are important to us.
Lastly, ask yourself the hardest question….am I too self-absorbed? Am I so concerned with my own needs and desires that I have no room to think about others? Am I willing to sacrifice some of my time and energy, or even my finances to show compassion and love to others?
These are important questions for us to consider. I believe God is asking us to live our lives compelled by compassion!