Having to personally deal with multiple long-term sicknesses has predictably taught me a lot about compassion. God has worked on my heart through it all to be able to be aware of other people’s deep hurts around me and to help them. I’m now able to understand them so much more, and feel their pain. You could probably have guessed that, right? Less predictably, however, it has made it much harder to be compassionate in certain situations. Can you relate?
I love those around me, and I want to comfort them, I want to be compassionate, but sometimes it’s just so hard. When a friend complains that they’re tired from a long day, or that they have a slight headache. When someone laments that their day -or even year- didn’t go as planned. When someone says that school is just sooo hard.
Well… I’m sorry about that, I truly am, but somehow I can’t seem to get the thoughts out of my mind in that moment about how my year (almost two) has gone a lot more unplanned than the person speaking. I can’t seem to disregard that I feel so drained of energy that I don’t want to roll over in bed let alone get out of it! I would love to have a long day! I would love to work hard and accomplish something. School’s hard? Well at least you can think!
I’m not proud of these thoughts or feelings, but you get the picture. So what do we do when we just can’t seem to have compassion on those around us who don’t even know how trivial their complaints seem to us? I know that even my struggles will seem trivial to some of you reading this, and rightly so! Do we simply not have compassion? Of course not!
Put yourself in their shoes. Remember what it was like when you were in the same place. To them, their complaints are just as frustrating and difficult as your battles are now. It isn’t about a competition of whose struggle is worse. I don’t know about you, but I want to be someone who people will still come to for comfort and compassion even if they think that my struggles are bigger. I want to pray for my friend with the headache, or the one overwhelmed with school; I don’t want them to be scared away from telling me about those things by thinking that I won’t take them seriously, or won’t have any sympathy! Far from it! We also need to remember that most people have battles that we will never see, that no one knows about. Surely we who have often ‘invisible illnesses’, can understand that!
So what do we do? First, smile sympathetically and nod. Do all that you can to show those around you that they are loved and try to comfort and console them. But most importantly, pray. Pray that God would work in your heart and fill it with His compassion, His love. Ask God to give you a heart for those around you, both those with deep hurts, and those with trivial complaints (or at least trivial to you). Pray for patience.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. -2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV, emphasis mine)
Any trouble. Any. Not just the big ones, not just the ones that we can relate to. Any trouble. How? ‘With the comfort we ourselves receive from God’. Not in our power. Yes, God has taught us to understand suffering and so taught us compassion and comfort. But just because we have a better understanding of it, it doesn’t change anything about how we should show it. It’s the same as it always was: we can only have true love and true compassion through Him. God is the only source. If we try in our own power, we won’t succeed. It will be false. It won’t last. Only the love that comes from God is unconditional and enduring.