Posts tagged ‘compassion’

Mercy and Compassion

The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. Psalm 145:8

It is easy to get caught up in defending my rights, my causes, my property, my beliefs, my theology, my world. Perhaps this is because we each face struggles, temptations, and injustices every day. These injustices can be as minor as someone cutting you off in traffic making you late for work, or cutting your pay even though you deserve a pay raise. But life is not about the injustices or the lows of life. Neither is it about the accolades and the highs of life. Rather, life is about how we respond to such circumstances. 

Yesterday I had a man return our chair he had taken to remove, as best he could, the paint he had spilled on it. We felt the need to repaint the interior of our home we recently moved into as the color scheme was actually depressing to me. We chose a paint company who had a good reputation, although quite expensive. But I felt they were worth it because I believed this company would make things right and do a superior job. The work crew consisted of two very polite and industrious hispanic men who spoke very little English. I grew to appreciate these men as they were conscientious, always on time, and took pride in their work.

After completing the job, there were some touch ups I requested to have done next to the stairs where new carpet had just been installed. In the process of touching up some missed spots on the wall, my painter friend spilled a gallon of paint on the new carpet and an upholstered chair in the living room. He frantically and diligently cleaned up the mess. He took the chair home to clean it more thoroughly. When he returned the chair, I was impressed that he had done a remarkable job, but I could still see the paint stain. I was ready to call the owner of the company and submit a claim, which he had previously told me that he would cover without a problem. However, the man who had painted my house and then spilled the paint requested that I not call the owner because he would lose his job. He explained, through an interpreter (his son), that he is simply a contract worker and would be required to pay for any damages out of his own pocket. He told me that he would make it right and pay for a replacement chair and new upholstery. I told him the estimated cost of such a replacement and I realized he would have to work a month to replace the damaged chair.

As I thought about this situation, I was saddened at the injustice my painter friend was experiencing in the work place. He is a hard worker and very talented. But more than that, he is honest and just. I was troubled throughout the night, and then this morning I read Psalm 145:8. God convicted me that my friend was worth far more than a perfect chair. I then texted by friend a thank you note telling him I would not mention this incident to the owner of his company and that the chair and the carpet look great. For now, I will keep the chair with it’s paint stain as a reminder of the injustices that people all around me endure.

I am thankful for the mercy and compassion God extends to me and how He has extended a measure of that to my friend through me, however reluctant I was to do so. I know a burden, however temporary, has been lifted this day from his shoulders. And I have a gift in the form of a slightly damaged chair sitting in my living room as a testament to God’s mercy and compassion in my life.

What Does God Expect of Me?… Compassion

The story of Job in the Bible has always intrigued me. Here is a man who is fully devoted to God even when he loses his family and possessions. He then developed painful sores over his entire body. Pain can change our thinking as we become focused on ourselves. At least that’s my experience. Even with an affliction as trivial as a head cold I feel sorry for myself and become impatient if it lasts more than 2-3 days. And that’s if everything else is going great in my life. But the story of Job is that he develops painful sores that stops him dead in his tracks after he has lost everything. He needs to make arrangements for his children’s funerals, not to mention his servants. And then he needs to begin the rebuilding process of his home, his business, his life. This alone would be overwhelming without the illness that could take his own life.

Enter 3 friends who give us a picture of compassion. We read in Job 2:11-12 that these 3 friends contact one another to make plans to visit Job when they heard of his circumstance. What’s remarkable about this part of the story is that these 3 friends did not live in the same neighborhood, town or even the same county. They didn’t have cell phones or internet. They had to make an enormous effort to contact one another and travel to see Job compared to the effort it would take today. But they did it. And then we read in verse 13… “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was great.” 

Compassion is more than sympathy or even empathy. Compassion recognizes suffering and then does something about it. And the first step of compassion is to understand and experience the suffering of another. Job’s friends had compassion on him as they changed plans and dropped whatever they were doing to be with him. Once they saw Job there was only one thing they could do, which is what compassion requires. They partook in his suffering. They sat with him during the day. They laid next to him during the night. There was nothing else to do. No advice, no planning, no doing, just being. Compassion always begins with understanding the plight of the other person. Compassion is always active, but that action begins with experiencing and understanding the suffering of another.

There are 2 points worth noting from this story: 1) Sympathy is not enough though I need to have sympathy for others. Sympathy is the spark that can light the fire of compassion. But sympathy by itself flickers out as it is drenched with the busyness and the cares of this world.  2) Compassion is real as it actively seeks to alleviate suffering. Compassion is not heard until it is felt, not seen until it is tasted, and not received until it is tangible. And compassion begins with sitting & laying on the ground with the one who is suffering.

Do you have compassion? What suffering is God calling you to alleviate this week? 

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