We have become a numbed culture: we try to soften every blow, water down each negative report, ask only surface questions in the hopes that no one will really tell us how much they’re hurting, and then medicate away every symptom. But these symptoms are screaming to be noticed!
Dr. Paul Brand the renown hand surgeon and missionary to leprosy patients in India, wrote:
“Pain contributes daily to a normal person’s quality of life…. Every normal person limps occasionally. Sadly, leprosy patients do not limp. Their injured legs never get the rest needed for healing…. This inability to ‘hear’ pain can cause permanent damage because the body’s careful responses to danger will break down. … A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. … The body protects poorly what it does not feel.” (emphasis added)
The Gospels often talk of the compassion of Jesus. His compassion led Him to teach the confused, feed the hungry, and heal the sick. The phrase usually used in the KJV is descriptive: Jesus was moved with compassion. In other words His feelings moved Him to action.
The Old English way of describing compassion was to say someone was “moved in his bowels.” This is because the suffering of someone else should be like a kick in my gut too.
Jesus gravitated toward the hurting, but in one story He told, Jesus related something different about His Father’s compassion. It’s the story we now call the story of the prodigal son. In this story Jesus said His Father watched the horizons every day to see if His wayward child would return. When He saw this child coming into view, God saw his slumped shoulders, He could detect his heavy heart and worn-out body. Then Jesus says something amazing, “The Father was moved with compassion and He RAN TO HIS SON!”
If our Heavenly Father runs TO another’s pain, what right do we have to ever run AWAY from it?
If we are to be God-honoring in our interaction with others, we need to (as Dr. Brand says) lower our threshold of pain. We need to feel what others feel, to feel it like a kick in our own gut, and then move toward the pain with help and healing and restoration.
Christians—if we are truly Christ-like—should be known as the most compassionate people of anyone. What are you doing to let this be seen in your life?