Compassion. It is a beautiful blend of love, empathy, mercy, and patience.
Jesus healed people, forgave people, fed people, wept for people out of compassion. We are commanded to have compassion toward others, to share with those in need out of compassion, to “make a difference” through our compassion. For references on this word, click here.
How does one learn compassion? From a book? From a sermon? We may glean some pointers on the topic from outside sources; but I think the primary way to really have compassion woven into your personal fabric is through trial.
Some suffering is simply to grow us up, and to bring us out of the Egypt of ourselves. This is the kind that reveals the true nature of our hearts. I don’t know about you, but mine can be a veritable “dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” Struggles keep me dependent on those springs of Living Water.
Other times, suffering is for correction; but never is it punishment simply for the sake of a spanking. God’s correction as a Father to His dear children is always purposeful and positive. We should not despise His chastening (Heb. 12:5). Here is a small snippet from “A Steadfast Heart” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I am slowly making my way through this book, and the author has a gift for revealing (out of her own cultivated compassion, through trial and suffering) the compassionate heart of God:
“Yes, we are suffering, but our suffering is not judgment for our sin, will not be eternal, and is something we don’t walk through alone. It is true that there are times when we reap the consequences of our sin, but even in this reaping, we’re not being punished by God. He does discipline us, but His discipline is always redemptive and remedial, never punitive. He does correct us for our good and out of love, but if we’re in His Son, we’ll never know His eternal judgment and displeasure. He’s with us even in our failures and is using them to benefit our sould and cause us to love the cross more and more.” ~Elyse Fitzpatrick, A Steadfast Heart, PRP Publishing, p. 43.
And then, there is the compassion that is honed through suffering, which will be used to comfort others:
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Cor. 1:3,4
We’ll have more on this.