A Touch of Compassion
by Mary Southerland
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 have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV).
It was Easter Sunday, and I was sitting in the sanctuary waiting for the worship service to begin. Anticipating a large crowd, I arrived early to drop Jered off in the nursery, one of his favorite places to go since every nursery worker doted on him. As the choir filed in, a friend slipped into the pew beside me and said, “I think you need to go to the nursery. Something is wrong with Jered.” Jumping up, I leapt over legs, toes, and pews as I raced to the church nursery and my son.
When I got to the nursery, I was not prepared for what I saw. In a far corner, lying on his favorite red mat was Jered, staring at the ceiling, silent and rigid. As I bent over him, searching those beautiful blue eyes, huge tears slid down his chubby cheeks as he flew into my arms, sobbing. You have to understand – as a baby, Jered cried only when he was hungry, wet, or sick. Something was obviously very wrong. I kissed his forehead. No fever. I checked his diaper. Dry and clean. I had no idea what had broken my son’s heart, but I certainly intended to find out.
The nursery worker drew me aside and said, “We had a new little girl in the nursery today. It was her first time in a church nursery – ever. When her parents left, she immediately began screaming and wouldn’t stop. Jered came running and wrapped his arms around her, but she pushed him away. He then brought her his bottle, but she hurled it across the room and continued screaming. Desperate to help her, Jered then found his diaper bag and fished out Turtle.
Turtle was a small, green-and-blue stuffed turtle we had given Jered during a stay in the hospital when he was seriously ill with the croup. From the moment Jered saw Turtle they were inseparable. He slept, ate, and played with Turtle clutched tightly in one hand. Turtle quickly became Jered’s most precious possession.
Mrs. Giles continued, “I couldn’t believe Jered was willing to give Turtle to a stranger, but he tried.” The crying child took one look at Turtle and threw it in Jered’s face. Stunned, he picked up Turtle and lay down on the mat, refusing to move, Turtle clutched tightly in his arms.
Then I knew. I knew Jered couldn’t stand to see the little girl in pain and was determined to help. When he couldn’t comfort the little girl, he retreated, waiting for someone else to help. That’s compassion.
Compassion is not just sympathy. It is empathy. When it comes to dealing with people in pain, we mistakenly equate compassion with “fixing” them. Genuine compassion is first able to feel their pain. And the more pain we experience, the more compassionate we will be.
We must learn to use our pain in the right way, not lashing out, but looking within to share the pain of others. There is a choice in every pain, an opportunity in every trial. Pain makes us focus inward or outward. It makes us martyrs or merciful. The choice is ours.
We have a choice every time we are confronted with a need. We can either ignore the need, or we can meet the need by giving away part of the comfort God has given us when we have been in pain.
Galatians 6:2 (NLT) “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
If we can’t prevent pain, we can at least lighten the load with compassion. Alan Redpath wrote, “You can never lighten the load unless you have first felt the pressure in your own soul.” Compassion makes us willing to feel the pain of others, responding as if it were our own.
Mary Southerland is an author, international speaker, Founder of Journey Ministry, and Co-founder of Girlfriends in God. Her books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, Trusting God and Knowing God by Name.
Mary’s heart passion is to help women discover and live out their God-shaped identity and purpose in life. Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter!