Filled with Compassion

by Scarlett Stough

Television brings suffering people into our living rooms: Haitians, grieving the loss of family, homes, and the means for basic survival; earthquake victims in various countries, shaken emotionally; children fighting for their lives in cancer wards; and the list grows longer each day. Those who are not jaded emotionally feel an internal pain in sympathy with those who suffer--they are “filled with compassion.” Some send money and supplies and others travel to be of help in person. They responded to their emotion with action; that too, is being filled with compassion.

Suffering often visits our homes and families as illness, injury, or conflict. A mother who aches for a child who cannot be comforted or their suffering eased is “filled with compassion.” She yearns to bring comfort and joy back to the small child in her arms. She may have a teenager or adult child who is self-destructing and she yearns to rescue them out of their troubled lives. Sometimes we can act on our compassionate feelings in a way that brings comfort and rescue to those who suffer. Often, we can not. The reasons may vary from not having the means or opportunity; but in many circumstances, people themselves stand in the way of receiving their own salvation or stand in the way of others receiving the aid they need.

God describes himself as compassionate. He hurts with us and yearns to bring us comfort and hope. He waits for us to ask. He waits for us to stop doing those things that hurt ourselves and others. He longs for people to turn back to him and receive the transformation into his likeness so we can become as compassionate as he is.

God’s compassion and his justice work hand in hand to relieve suffering. His mercy (another word for compassion) will not be extended to those who are not merciful. The murderer must stop murdering even in his desire and imagination. The child abuser must stop abusing children and act compassionately himself. The thief must stop stealing and begin sharing what he earns with others. Employers must pay employees a living wage. Employees must work with diligence and integrity. Public servants must stop taking bribes and do the right thing, the compassionate and just thing. Fathers need to support their children and be faithful to their wives. Mothers and fathers need to see to their children’s needs above their own selfish desires.

Not all suffering is due directly to wrongdoing, injustice, or cruelty. But all suffering can be a means of learning to be compassionate to others who suffer and to continue to trust God for the ultimate end of all suffering. God often acts on his compassionate feelings in this world, usually through the hearts and hands of compassionate people. He promised that a day of judgment will come and that he will put a stop to all suffering. His compassion and justice working together will create a new heavens and a new earth free of death, pain, grief and sorrow. Only those who have been compassionate in this life will live again as citizens of that kingdom.

Bible Study Guide: Be Compassionate
Volume 9 Issue 4 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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