The times when I needed the most compassion was when I learned it. Compassion is often learned through suffering, which makes sense because when you break down the word compassion and look at it's older English roots, it means "suffer alongside". When I become aware of my need for someone to suffer alongside me, I also become aware of the fact that others need someone to suffer alongside them.
|Me and Kota after my second surgery|
Over and over again, when I hear people's stories of illness, I hear them say that through it they learned compassion, so I know my story is not unique. Many even say that they can be thankful and not regret their struggle with illness because it taught them compassion, and I would include myself in that statement. Would I rather be well than sick? Absolutely, and I'm still working towards that end. However, I would rather be able to offer compassion and empathy to others than not. My thought is, if this is how God is choosing to bring glory to himself through my life, then so be it and if this is how he is choosing to shape me into the person that I need to be, then I'll what he wants to teach me. Suffering doesn't have to teach you compassion, though. It can make some people bitter, self-righteous, and unforgiving. Many people go through a time where they feel that way in the midst of suffering, but others allow it to stay and become a part of them. I guess, in order to learn something positive from suffering, you have to make the choice to learn something positive and reject the negative.
Exodus 34:6 says "The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...". In the telling of the parable of the prodigal son, where the father in the story represents God, Jesus said ""So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him...". One of the verses from one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 103:13, says: "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him..." There are many more verses that mention God's compassion and it's truly amazing when you pause to reflect. God suffers alongside us, but God doesn't have to suffer. Think about it. God is the Creator and Master of the universe. He certainly has the power to avoid all personal suffering but instead, in his great love, he takes on our pain, to walk through it with us.
Just as God has compassion on us, he calls us to do the same. Zechariah 7:9 says, "This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another." In Ephesians 4:32, God says through Paul, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Jesus said in Luke 6:36, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." He set for us a pattern, and we must follow suit. I'm not trying to to say that I'm excellent at this all the time because I'm really not.There are many different types of suffering and some are not as easy for me to understand because I haven't been there. I'm still learning and sometimes I totally miss it. But through my suffering, God has shown me that everyone, absolutely everyone, needs compassion, so I need to view the world through compassionate eyes.
So as I look at those around me who are suffering, I can choose to stay disengaged, I can choose to make their path even harder to walk, or I can choose to suffer alongside them. What I should choose is obvious, because everyone needs compassion and my simple act of compassion that I learned through suffering, might be able to point someone towards the God who is mighty to save.
I wrote this article as a response to Finding the Grace Within's Tuesday at Ten link-up. This week's prompt was "I learned that...". Click the Photo below to see other people's responses.