“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to a place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.” ~ Henry Nouwen
In 2009, Mike & I read a great little book called Red Letters: Living A Faith That Bleeds It is not an exaggeration to say that God used the words of that book to change the course of where we thought our lives would go.
A snapshot into our life back then: We had a good source of income, a big ole house, great neighbors, even better family and spent most of our time indulging in things that would maintain our comfortable lifestyle. Sounds pretty good, right? Don’t get me wrong, we were/are not millionaires. Not even close. But hey, why not try to look like one, right? It’s the American way! But nothing – absolutely nothing was filling the aching inside both of us to live a life that would draw others closer to Him. For a while, we felt like all our extra time was spent just taking care & repairing the THINGS we had spent good money on, anyhow! Can I get an amen?
But He, in His lovingkindness, answered those aches… just not like we ever thought.
After reading Red Letters, we looked at each other and said, ‘WOW! Where have we been all of our Christian lives?” We knew we couldn’t go back to life as usual. We started simple enough though. We took one small step to sponsor a young lady in Swaziland, Africa through Children’s HopeChest. Just like when our own boys were born, God used this little girl to show us a deeper level of love & acceptance than we ever thought possible.
It wasn’t long after that an opportunity was presented to me to help other kids in Swaziland find sponsors too. I thought, ‘I know allll kinds of loving people, who when they find out what these kids are going through, will be moved with compassion and help however they can!’
And you know what? Its happened. Alllll those loving people have listened to us for over 3 years now, and been moved to empathetic tears, moved to fervent prayer, moved to action time & time again for children who would otherwise have NO hope of survival.
Did you know that compassion literally means, ‘to suffer with‘?
Another definition of compassion is ‘sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.’
When we sing in church, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord… I want to see You.” Compassion is His answer. You want to see God? Go to the hurting, sit with the broken, help the hungry. You WILL see & feel God all around you.
I am utterly grateful for a God who SO longs to intimately love & know His people that He allows for nothing besides Him to fill the void, to fill our longing hearts. Do you get that? How crazy He is for you… for those around you?
So we never saw this journey of ‘compassion’ coming, but I assure you we never feel God’s love more than when we empty ourselves, than when we throw aside temporal things to show His love to the wounded, the lonely, the hurting.
The above Henry Nouwen quote is so true. As wonderful as this journey has been, it has not been an easy one. That’s okay, because as my mother says, God did not call us to a ‘soft’ life. What on earth are we here for if not to love the lost, lean into the forgotten, and lay down our comfy lives for the broken, so that they may ultimately know Him?
For each of us, active compassion will take us down many different roads (not necessarily to Africa!). But all the roads lead to loving more, giving more, and ultimately leading a broken world into the compassionate arms of Jesus.
The cost of compassion…
If it means living a ‘smaller’ life…
If it means having less time for TV & less money for manicures…
If it means giving up vacation time to go extend His love to children half a world away…
If it means suffering with the forgotten & lonely…
I’ll humbly pay it over & over again, knowing that my Jesus paid the ultimate price.
Our journey moves on. We learn more & more every day about what it means to truly love: not for our own pat on the back, but to help transform lives that they may see His saving grace.
We were fortunate to partner with a ministry whose sole purpose is to see lives holistically transformed. The short video below shows some of the ways that the compassion of Jesus has been lived out. I say it so often, but Children’s HopeChest is not interested in creating a name for themselves. They aren’t giving hand outs and creating dependency on foreign aid. They are feeding, discipling, training, educating and giving people around the world the tools necessary to transform their own lives. The video shows a few ways that is happening.
VIDEO: Swaziland: Transformation
I hope you are encouraged to shine the light & love of Jesus, with His compassion as your guide. And in comparison to His great, crazy, all-consuming love for us, the ‘cost’ is not a ‘cost’ at all, but an invitation to further partake in the greatest love story ever told.
Should you want more information on what sponsorship means, follow this link. We have over 15 orphaned & vulnerable children in the rural community of Manzini who need a friend & the security of knowing they will be fed, drink clean water, be taught about Jesus, have access to medical care should they need it.