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On Suffering With

July 6, 2020 4 min read

Compassion

My heart beats a little faster, and a fire swells in my bones when I hear this word. In these 10 letters, I feel like I can finally describe the voice that keeps me up at night. 

This has been a season of explosion—a burst of color and sights and smells. Day after day, I have stepped into a community unlike any I have ever been in before, and the stories of the people who live in these buildings, who walk these streets, who call this place home have humbled me to my core. 

Each family has welcomed me into their home with overwhelming generosity. They take my hands in theirs and pull me close for a hug, a kiss on the cheek—like we’re old friends. And then we sit together, and I listen. I hear their stories. I hear their hearts. 

A family who had to flee terrorists groups I’ve only heard about in the news. 
A husband and wife whose children are still overseas, waiting for the chance to reunite with their parents in America. 
People who had to leave the land their families had owned and called home for generations.

Each is a human being—man or woman, husband or wife, son or daughter, auntie or uncle. Often what determines the biggest difference between them and me is where we were born, and most families face deep challenges I can’t even begin to fix. 

Compassion. 

This word moves me to tears more and more
Because I don’t have all the answers. 
I can’t fix families problems or take away their struggles. 
I’m not God or the government, and let’s never confuse the two. 

Compassion wrecks me because of the Jesus I follow
Because of the life I saw Him live
Because of the example He gave me
gave you
gave us. 

The Compassion Model

There are these verses missionaries like to quote in Matthew 9:35-38, and for good reason. They are a prayer—a desperate plea for the Lord to send others to join the kingdom building work happening all over the world. But as someone who grew up in the church, I’ve allowed these verses to become cliché and shallow—missing the heart of the Father entirely. 

“Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.’”

As is often the case with Jesus, so much happens in such a short amount of time. He’s not the God of one or the other. He’s the God of both/and. He teaches and speaks truth—addressing our very real spiritual needs. And He heals their bodies—addressing our very real physical needs. Every word He spoke, everything He did was motivated by this beautiful word. 

Compassion.

At the core of compassion is this idea “to suffer with.” It’s a yearning, a deep desire to right what has been wronged, to alleviate pain and suffering, to come alongside those who are broken and hurting. 

Everything we do has to start from this place—from compassion and love and mercy—and it has to be rooted in humility. It’s messy and unafraid of getting dirty. It leads us to places that are uncomfortable, and we go there not because we have all the answers. We sit with the broken and the brokenhearted because we carry the heart of the Father. And our Father is compassionate. 

When Jesus saw the crowds, He wasn’t overwhelmed or annoyed. He didn’t avoid hard truths, even at the risk of offending others. He had compassion on them. He showed mercy. He showered them with love. He saw the ache in their heart, the search in their soul, and He showed them the Kingdom that would satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts. 

And He asks us to do the same. 

Stumbling Through Compassion

These days I find myself in more situations to live and breathe in compassion than I ever could have imagined. The stories of our people humble me, and I feel an immense sense of honor simply by sitting with them. 

And at the end of the day, more times than not, my heart feels heavy. 

It’s burdened. 
It’s bursting—unable to live the same way tomorrow, unable to stay still and do nothing.
And this—even the tension of not knowing what to do, how to help—feels sacred. Because it’s compassion. 

And it looks an awful lot like Jesus. 

So friend, may compassion move us to action—to suffering with others. May we feel the burden of others. May we do what we can to alleviate it. And above all, may we be light and hope and love because of compassion Jesus modeled for us. 

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