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Girlfriends in God - Apr. 23, 2009

April 23, 2009 
I Feel Your Pain 
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth 
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort.  He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.”

Friend to Friend 
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most familiar passages in all of scripture.  It is a parable, an earthly story with a heavenly lesson.  Jesus tells this parable in response to a question asked him by a Jewish lawyer.  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” the successful young truth seeker asked.  Jesus saw his heart and told him the two things he must do, the two things the lawyer would find it hardest to do.  He must love God completely and he must love his neighbor as himself. 

The lawyer didn’t like that answer because he lived by the law.  He wanted the laws or doing good works to be his ticket to heaven.  This “loving your neighbor” business sounded too messy and certainly too costly.  It was simply too much personal responsibility.  But Jesus told the lawyer that keeping the law – God’s law and man’s law - was not enough.  He had to love God and he had to love his neighbor. 

Thinking he could find a loophole, the lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus’ answer to that question is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is a story of compassion and drives home the truth that compassion is not just for the easy to love people, but for the not so easy to love sandpaper people as well, an impossible task outside the supernatural power of God working in and through us.  The word “compassion” is a key word in 2 Corinthians, is used 29 times and can be defined as “called to one’s side to help.”  How can we become people of compassion? 

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 our son, Jered, off in the nursery, one of his favorite places to go because every nursery worker spoiled him rotten.  Sometimes he would even cry when my husband, Dan, or I picked him up after church, wanting to stay and play.  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 catapulted over legs, toes and bodies as I raced to the nursery and my son.

I was not prepared for what I saw.  Over in the corner, lying on his favorite red mat was Jered, staring at the ceiling, silent and rigid.  As I bent over my precious son and looked into 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, the only time Jered cried was when he was hungry, wet or sick.  He always seemed to be smiling, happy and contented.  Something was obviously very wrong.  I kissed his forehead.  No fever.  I checked his diaper.  Dry and clean.  I had no idea what the problem was. 

Just then, Mrs. Giles, Jered’s favorite nursery worker, drew me aside and said, “Let me tell you what just happened. 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 the little girl, Jered found his diaper bag and fished out Turtle.”   Turtle was a small, stuffed green and blue turtle we had given him months earlier when he was in the hospital, seriously ill with croup.  From the moment he saw Turtle, everywhere Jered went, Turtle went.  Jered slept with Turtle clutched tightly in one hand.  Jered ate with Turtle sitting in his lap and carefully tucked Turtle in his diaper bag whenever we left the house.  Turtle quickly became Jered’s most precious possession and an invaluable source of comfort to him.  Mrs. Giles continued, “I couldn’t believe that Jered was willing to give Turtle to a stranger, but he tried.”  The crying child had taken one look at Turtle and thrown it in Jered’s face.  Stunned, he picked up Turtle and laid down on the mat, refusing to move, the stuffed animal clutched tightly in his arms.  Then I knew.  I knew that Jered could not stand to see the little girl in pain and was determined to help.  When he couldn’t, he retreated until someone else came to help.  That’s compassion.              

Compassion is empathy, not just sympathy.  We sometimes equate showing compassion with “fixing” people.  Genuine compassion is first able to feel their pain.  I believe 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 identify with and share the pain of others.  There is a choice in every pain, an opportunity in every trial.  We can understand and comfort others who walk through the same trials we face.  Pain makes us focus inward or outward.  It makes us martyrs or merciful.  The choice is ours.

The Samaritan chose to use his pain and help the injured man.  He could understand the man’s pain because of the pain in his own life.  Jews hated all Samaritans.  The man lying on the road was a Jew.  There was no logical reason for this Samaritan to rearrange his plans and spend his money to help this “enemy” in need.  But compassion doesn’t look for reasons or ask for limitations.  It searches for opportunity.  The Samaritan had a choice, just as 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. 

If we can’t prevent pain, we can at least lessen the load with compassion.  Allen Redpath wrote, “You can never lighten the load unless you have first felt the pressure in your own soul.”  To develop compassion, we must be willing to feel the pain of others, responding as if it were our own. 

Let’s Pray 
Father, my heart can be so hard and indifferent.  Please help me remember how Your compassion saved me and then empower me to share that same compassion with others who are hurting.  Please help me see them – the wounded ones who cross my path every day. 

In Jesus’ name, 

Now It’s Your Turn 
Read the following words, write them on a piece of paper and keep them in your purse or in your car.  As you go through your day, look for ways to demonstrate the compassion of God.

I was hungry

And you formed a humanities club to discuss my hunger.

I was imprisoned

And you went to your chapel to pray for my release.

I was naked

And you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick

And you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless

And you delivered a sermon on the shelter of God’s love.

I was lonely

And you left me alone to attend church.

You seem so close to God but I am still very hungry, lonely, and cold! ~ (Author unknown)

More From The Girlfriends 
My biggest problem with compassion is the fact that I am sometimes too busy to see a need.  It is so much easier just to walk on by, relegating our responsibility to someone else – anyone else.  However, the way we care for one another and minister to people no one else will touch should be an illustration of God’s all-inclusive and impartial love. I encourage you to join me in a new commitment to be more compassionate. 

During your busy day, you can find encouragement and inspiration from Mary’s new collection of MP3 devotionals.  Based on personal life stories and illustrations, these devotions will draw your heart back to the center of God’s will and motivate you to walk in obedience. 

Rather have a book?  Check out Mary’s book, Hope in the Midst of Depression, to learn how compassion saved her in the midst of her personal battle with depression. 

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