After a night in town, we found ourselves confronted with the plight of the homeless. It was the first time my daughters had come face-to-face with a problem they had only previously heard of. Their young hearts were troubled. Could they do something they asked? Could they buy a meal for the couple sitting begging by the door?
Stories move me. It's not uncommon when I'm reading or watching something for the tears to well up and my throat to constrict—I willingly and instinctively identify with a character's pain; their story and my own seem to merge as I share the emotions of their suffering. My children groan and berate me when they see this happening. "It's just a story, Mum," they tell me. Truthfully, I've worried about their inability to sympathise—even lectured them to be more compassionate. But that night, as I saw how soft their young hearts were to the suffering they encountered, I was challenged that perhaps it is my own heart that needs inspecting because sadly, my empathy doesn't always spill over into real life. Overwhelmed by the enormity of people's pain and suffering, my heart can tend to shut down in an effort to self-protect and keep my sense of powerlessness at bay.
The gospels tell us that Jesus was 'moved by compassion' (Matt. 9:36). He healed the sick, fed the hungry, embraced the outcasts, restored the sinner and ultimately suffered on the Cross to show us the Father’s compassion.
Our word compassion comes from the Latin, 'compati', meaning to suffer with. It challenges us to not leave people alone in their suffering but to participate in it with them; to walk alongside and help them carry their burden of pain; to allow our tears to give way to action. That night, the gift of a meal was our way of participating in the suffering of another.
God doesn't want us to shut down to the pain of this world because it feels too big. Instead, He invites to share in the story of Scripture—to demonstrate His compassion for our sin and brokenness, one person at a time, just as Jesus did. Who is God inviting you to walk with today?
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
(Hosanna, Brooke Ligertwood)
Weekly nuggets of inspiration, Monday Musings are short Scripture-based thoughts to encourage you to draw close to God and pursue His purposes throughout the week. Subscribe to get them direct to your inbox here.