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)
His little voice piped up from behind me as we drove to Church. “Why do we have cars?" he asked.
“So we don’t have to walk and we can go lots of places,” was my reply. Even as I said it, I wondered just how far I would be willing to travel without my car – I had a feeling that my world would become rather small.
In Mark’s gospel, we’re told that ‘Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all He was doing, many people came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd He told His disciples to have a small boat ready for Him, to keep the people from crowding Him. For He had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch Him (3:7-10)’.
Can you imagine this scene? Jesus had simply wanted some downtime, but instead, He’s met by crowds so desperate to touch Him He has to teach them from a boat.
This crowd were not only desperate to touch Him, they were also willing to travel a great distance to be with Him. For example, it was 70 miles from Judea to Galilee – approximately a 2-3 day journey on foot; from Jerusalem, it was 68 miles and from Idumea, approximately 120 miles. The shortest journey was from Tyre, and even that would have taken at least a day. Their journeys would have also taken them through difficult and mountainous terrain and they probably had to carry some of their sick.
As I read these verses, I had to ask myself: how far would I travel to encounter Jesus? And I realised just how often I trade encounter for comfort.
We may not have to walk on foot or carry the sick or press through the crowds, but every day we face obstacles and distractions that seek to deter us from meeting with Jesus. From hearing His words and encountering His life. But oh how He longs for us to press through and reach Him so He can fill us.
What does it look like for you to lay aside comfort and pursue Jesus this week?
One of my girls is a spender. The moment she has managed to accumulate even just a couple of dollars she's begging to go spend them. I find myself constantly reminding her if she spends now, then she is delaying being able to get what she really wants. She's learning she must determine what matters and plan accordingly, because money, like any other resource, is finite and requires stewarding and prioritising. It cannot be endlessly stretched, and neither can our time.
My preference has always been to say 'yes' when people ask something of me. However, experience has taught this recovering people-pleaser that I can’t say yes to all the requests and opportunities that come my way – no matter how good they are – because every yes spends my time.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that ‘no’ is a negative word – that it is shutting off opportunities, denying ourselves pleasure, closing doors and causing us to disappoint and offend people. But I have come to understand that every no is really a ‘yes’ to something else. A yes to what God is asking me to prioritise at that time.
In Luke 2:42-44, Jesus models this for us. He had been busy healing the sick and setting people free in the town of Capernaum. What He was doing was a good thing, a great thing actually, and understandably, the people wanted Him to say with them. But Jesus was mindful of what God had sent Him to do – which was to proclaim and demonstrate the good news in more than one place. So when they try to keep Him from leaving, He says, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
I have no doubt that His no disappointed the people of Capernaum. But if He had said yes to staying, He would have been saying no to the Father, which in turn would have caused fewer people to hear the good news of God's love. May we learn from Jesus' example and spend our time well, investing it in the people and priorities that God has for us in this season so that His Kingdom purposes can be realised in and through us.
Where is God inviting you to spend your time today?