Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Dear Gary,

It is with sadness too deep for words that you, my friend, mourn the death of your beloved wife. Through the months and days to come, you will think of Verdeen and all that she was to you.

She was your bride. She was the mother of your children. She was a role model and mentor. She was a skilled craftswoman. She was the love of your life.
But do you know that Verdeen was—and still is—so much more?

At much too young an age, your beloved began to change as she suffered the progressive disease of Alzheimer’s. How many times did you hear someone say, “She isn’t the person she once was”?

But do they know that the person, Verdeen, was—and still is—so much more?

How difficult it must have been when you understood that your wife could no longer be a homemaker but would, instead, be a patient in the care center.

But, oh my friend, do you know that Verdeen was—and still is—so much more?

Do you know that as a baptized Christian, Verdeen has an identity that never changes no matter her appearance, abilities, or circumstances in life? Illness did not change who Verdeen really is. Nor did her funeral. Verdeen will always be the person she has been since her Baptism. On that day, she was washed with water and the Word, given faith, and dressed in righteousness and purity. She was marked with the sign of the cross and made a daughter and heir of God because of what Jesus her Savior and Lord did for her.

Think of it, my friend! Jesus invited both you and your beloved wife to pray, “Our Father, Who art in heaven.” The Apostle John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

But the world does not know who Verdeen is because it does not know God. If the world does not know God the Father, it cannot know His sons and daughters.

My friend, you are not like the world. Even though it has been difficult to watch the changes in your wife, you treated her with the honor and dignity that an heir of God deserves. It would be a lie to say that you didn’t suffer with her, or that you never experienced frustration, impatience, and even anger. But when we see another human being in the way that God does, our attitude is transformed. Indeed, each human life is a treasure for whom Christ gave all He had.

Dear friend, in all your years of courtship and marriage, did you see that Verdeen was dressed in Christ’s Robe of Righteousness and proclaimed “holy” in the eyes of God? Yes, I think you did. That is why you held her in high esteem and put her needs before your own. That is why you read to her, held her hand, looked at family photos with her, brought her flowers, sang hymns with her, wiped her bloody nose, combed her hair, and prayed with her.

Here, my friend, is your comfort and peace. You did not love as the world loves. You loved with compassion which means to “suffer with.” You loved more than a bride, the mother of your children, a role model and mentor, a craftswoman, and the romance of your life. You loved a daughter of God who now enjoys her “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [her]” (1 Peter 1:4).

My friend, you defended the life of your beloved and honored her as her Father desired. You helped her navigate her earthly journey until her Father said: Well done, good and faithful husband. Now let Me carry My daughter home.

Oh, and there is one more thing, says the Lord: You will see her again.

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I am in need of Good Friday.  That’s because I’m in need of love.  Not the love that people “fall into” or “out of,” nor the kind too commonly used in place of “like” when fawning over a friend’s dress, sparkly ring, or new shoes.

Love, as shown by God, is compassion.  Compassion is “com,” meaning “with,” and “passion,” as shown on Good Friday by the passion of Christ.  God’s passion for me means that He desired something on my behalf so intensely that it caused His suffering.  Compassion means to suffer with.

Since childhood, I have sung “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  His love is not a mere hug and kiss.  It is not getting what I want.  It is not Jesus thinking happy thoughts about me.  Jesus’ love for me involved His persecution, sorrow, pain, abandonment, and death.  This love cannot be expressed in a romantic way, nor can it be summed up in the modern phrase, “I just want to be with the one I love.”  Defined in this way, love is more about how the one I love makes me feel.

God loves me, but it’s not because I make Him “feel good” or “happy.”  In fact, He is angered by my rebellious sins.  His love, therefore, takes me by surprise.  He does not declare me unlovable!  He does not turn His face from me as I deserve, but comes to suffer with me!  “God loved the world so that He gave His only Son.”  The word “so” is not used here for emphasis; therefore, I really shouldn’t paraphrase John 3:16 as “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.”  This verse more accurately reads: “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave His only-begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

Good Friday doesn’t seem like a “good” day for Jesus.  But, it is a good day for me.  Yes, there is His tortured body on a cross that I would prefer to look past so that I can experience the joy of Easter.  But there cannot be a Resurrection Sunday without a suffering Friday.  On this Friday, the love of God is shown to me!  God so intensely desired my rescue from sin that He suffered with and for me.  He laid the burden of my sins upon His only Son who did what I could not do for myself.

What wondrous love is this?  It is the suffering Servant Jesus.  It is His submission, humiliation, and death.  This Love could not be kept in a grave.  Love is risen… and abides forever with me.  With you.  With all who call Him Savior and Lord.

Even when we’re feeling unlovable.


(With appreciation to Rev. David H. Petersen)

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sandy hook school shootingThe Apostle Paul was inspired by God to write, “Mourn with those who mourn.”  Following the loss of human life in schools like Newtown, CT., we as fellow citizens and especially as Christians are called to mourn with the families of those who died.  We do well to mourn with few rather than more words.

However, as John Stonestreet brought to my attention, it becomes tempting in this fast-paced, technologically-driven society to Facebook or Twitter our thoughts.  It appears that both Christians and non-Christians took advantage of their “freedom of speech” to make public political or moral comments on the situation.  Many of the comments, it seems, were made with little thought of the families that simply need time to grieve.  As Christians, we are always called upon to respect our fellow human beings.  We are called to a higher standard.  A standard of thoughtful behavior that is reflective of our holiness in Christ.

On Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation.  God became Man.  The very Creator and Redeemer of all human life came into our messy, depraved, and broken world.  He did more than hand us a book or tell us a story.  He came in the flesh.  He offered Himself.  He sacrificed all that He had… for us.

Evil exists in our world because of sin.  Our sinful flesh becomes a willing instrument of destruction in the hands of Satan.  But, in Jesus Christ, we become new every morning.  This means that we are given opportunity to reflect the God who made us rather than ourselves.  We are equipped to make choices that help others rather than hurt them.  As new people in Christ, we are called to act in a more holy way, wait on the Holy Spirit for His discernment and, when the time is right, speak the Truth in love.

There is a time to speak.  The Christian is not called to silently allow non-believers and those who oppose the Biblical worldview to rule the day.  We are to be well informed and ready to defend the faith.  But, in times of tragedy, we are called first to mourn.  Offer care and compassion.  If given opportunity, we are to serve those who are facing adversity and trial in their lives.   When possible, we can help carry a burden. Then, in whatever conversations crop up, we can help ourselves and others contrast the things of God with the things of this world.  Good and evil are real.  God and Satan daily do battle for our very souls.

It is for this reason that Jesus Christ came to live among us.  He entered into the lives of sinful, broken and hurting people. Everything He said and did directed people away from self to God; away from despair to hope; away from evil to good.  He knew when to speak and, when He did, He spoke The Word.  He also knew when to grieve with those who mourned.

We might learn a valuable lesson from Job’s three friends.  “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place . . . to show him sympathy and comfort him . . . they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.  And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13).

Suffering will be great in this world.  But, Job’s friends did harm when they pontificated on what Job had done wrong to cause such suffering.  We, too, do wrong when we place blame or fail to remember that God works in the midst of trouble to lead us to Him or refine our faith.  When we are perplexed in affliction, may we – through the eyes of faith – see Christ, whose affliction saved us from sin and eternal despair.  May we be silenced by the awe of such sacrifice.

But, when asked how to prepare for such evil as a school shooting, may we speak up with the answer:  Tell your children and grandchildren about Jesus.

Only in Christ the Savior can any child — of any age — know victory over evil, suffering or even death.

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Laura was raped by her alcoholic father.  She remembers the shock when the doctor told her she was pregnant.  “He told me that my only choice in a situation like this was to have an abortion.  He was very kind.  He held my hand and comforted me.”  After the abortion, Laura cried nearly every night.  “I could find no peace.”

Encouraging a woman who has become pregnant through incest or rape to have an abortion may seem the compassionate thing to do.  But, is it?

Some have observed that abortion is the solution for the people we don’t want.  Or, in the case of rape or incest, the people we can’t bear to love.  You would think that God could not bear to love tainted and sinful people like me.  Or anyone else in the whole human race.  “I am a Holy God who cannot abide the unholy.  I will abort you all!”  That’s what God could have said.  But, He didn’t.  He chose, instead, to sacrifice more of Himself.  The Holy came to live among the unholy.  To love the unloveable.

Only God in Christ Jesus can look full in the face of ugliness and despair to bring healing and hope.  “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Jesus in Matthew 11:28-29).

Dr. Sandra Mahkorn, author of Pregnancy and Sexual Assault: The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, alerted me to the fact that abortion is an additional trauma for the girl or woman who has first been victimized and is then encouraged to victimize her unborn child.  Consider the symptoms of rape.  The woman feels dirty, guilty, sexually violated, of low self-esteem, angry, fearful or hateful of men.  Now consider the symptoms of abortion.  The woman feels dirty, guilty, sexually violated, of low self-esteem, angry, fearful or hateful of men.  Instead of curing the problem, all the same symptoms are intensified.  Martin Luther once said, “Even the heathen say it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.”

In a 1979 study, Dr. Mahkorn identified 37 pregnant rape victims.  Of these, only five chose to have an abortion.  The other 32 victims gave several reasons for not aborting.  Some felt that abortion was another act of violence.  Some saw an intrinsic meaning or purpose for the life of the child.  Some even believed that if they could get through the pregnancy they would have conquered the rape.  For them the selfless act of giving birth helped them to reclaim their self-respect.

In studies of incest victims, the vast majority choose to carry the pregnancy to term.  Those in the minority who have an abortion appear to do so only under pressure from their parents to conceal the incestuous relationship.

For some incest victims, carrying their pregnancy to term is a way to break out of an incestuous relationship with their fathers, whom they may still love despite their confusion and resentment about the way they have been used as sexual objects.  Since they still love their fathers, having the child not only exposes the incestuous relationship, but also gives hope of beginning a truly loving relationship.

Reason holds that if God has a watchful eye on us and loves us, He will prevent all evil and let us suffer nothing.  Luther reminds us to look to the Word, not reason.  When a mother acts as though she is about to drop her child, the little one throws its arms about her neck and holds on all the tighter.  Similarly in times of trouble and desperation, God wants us to cling to Him and trust His Words and promises to us.

“I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.  The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:5-6).

The Lord is the song of salvation for all of us who have been wronged.  And for all of us who have wronged others.

His compassion is true.  It is new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

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My friend and mentor, Joanie, knew she was engaged in daily spiritual battle.  Her soul and the souls of those around her were targets for the enemy of our lives.  It was for this reason that Joanie tightly grasped the Sword of Truth.  “God’s Word is all I need.”

Once, while walking through a deep valley in her life, Joanie asked me to write out the words of Lamentations 3:21-23 (KJV):  “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”  I wrote out a second copy for myself.

One of Joanie’s favorite authors was Oswald Chambers.  His book, My Utmost for His Highest, is in our home library.  At a time when I was feeling insignificant and unappreciated, my husband asked me to read a page he had marked in the book.  There, Chambers quoted Philippians 2:17 (NIV):  “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.”  Chambers’ commentary reads:

“Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the work of another believer — to pour out your life sacrificially for the ministry and faith of others?  Or do you say, ‘I am not willing to be poured out right now, and I don’t want God to tell me how to serve Him.  I want to choose the place of my own sacrifice.  And I want to have certain people watching me saying, ‘Well done.’ ”

Chambers had my attention.  I was compelled to read on.

“It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a ‘doormat’ under other people’s feet.  God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, ‘I know how to be abased . . .’ (Philippians 4:12).  Are you ready to be sacrificed like that?  Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket — to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served?  Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted — not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister?”

I am thankful that my husband was drawn to this particular commentary from Chambers’ book.  I reflect on it whenever I’m tempted by my human nature:  Does anyone notice my hard work?  Does anyone see how “poured out” I am?  Will I be credited for my help?  Then I think about Joanie.  She was always pouring herself out for others.  She was my hero, but the life marked out for her required becoming a doormat.

Joanie was willing to be insignificant — to give and minister to others — all the while calling attention to the Savior Jesus Christ.  In turn, something amazing happened.  Joanie was never poured out to empty.  God’s Spirit filled her with enough for each day.  His compassions never failed.  They were new every morning.

Poured out?  Unappreciated?  Used up?  God sent me Joanie whose life assured me: “Great is Thy faithfulness.”  As I pour out to His glory, He is faithful to fill up.

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The animal rights group Mercy For Animals hired a hog confinement site employee to go undercover.  Photos were taken of some unethical behavior.

Mercy…  please!   Animals will never be able to thank you.  But, if you would put your passion into protesting the cruelty that happens daily inside abortion clinics, I’m sure some children and their children will thank you.

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It was predictable.  The “chattering atheist class is once again mocking those of us who believe in God,” writes Chuck Colson.  In the wake of the earthquakes and tsunami, they ask: Why would our so-called good God permit such a catastrophe?  Colson observes, “It’s amazing how much time some people spend railing against a God they don’t believe exists.”

My son, Jon, notes, Christianity isn’t for dummies.  We don’t have to leave our brains at the door in order to have faith in a creator God.  Look at what’s happening.  The earth and the physical creation — reflecting its rational creator — is behaving according to observable laws.  Observe these laws and principles, encourages Colson, and you’ll know much about plate tectonics and how earthquakes occur.  They are a result of natural processes.

Can we stop earthquakes?  No.  But, as rational beings created in God’s image (although fallen to sin), we enjoy the opportunity to use the gifts of knowledge God has entrusted to us.  We, as Colson points out, can use that knowledge and good sense.  Perhaps we should not be so arrogant as to build cities on already-known fault lines.  Or homes in hurricane zones.

When an earthquake, tsunami, or tornado claim the lives of thousands, can we complain that God let it happen?  When a hurricane wrecks havoc in a community, can we question or blame God? No.  “Hurricanes are a natural phenomenon that occurs because of climactic changes and shifting winds and temperature gradients,” notes Colson, “all of those things which can now be clearly demonstrated to be physical laws of the universe.”  Has it always been this way?  Nasty upheavals of the earth and killer storms?

No.  Such things did not exist in the beginning.  But, in a perfect Garden, man and woman rebelled against God.  (I hear you atheists… go ahead and scoff.)  When the created thought itself better than the Creator, sin entered the world.  Now we live with the consequences of that sin: an earth in turmoil.

What can we do?  Mourn with those who mourn.  Love our neighbors as ourselves.  Help those in need.  Share our resources.  Give up a new pair of shoes, a steak dinner, or a round of golf and send the money to world relief.

Then, listen.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell  me, if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements — surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?  On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone . . . Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place . . . Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt . . . Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion . . . Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

(Job 38:4-6; 12; 25; 31; 40:1-2)

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