Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Speed of God's Compassion

"Pain suffered while we are alone is very different than pain suffered near someone else." Henri Nouwen

Most of us consider ourselves fairly compassionate people. We weep when we watch really sad films. We get very indignant when we see someone abuse another. We may even pray fervently for those who suffer. Even so, do these things qualify as compassion?

The meaning of the word compassion is to "suffer with". That means to do much more than be moved emotionally to a state of caring. I believe it means to actually stay with the sufferer for a God appointed period of time.

There is no way to stay with a person who suffers without suffering with the sufferer. There is no way to stay with a sufferer without reducing our speed to their speed for a time.

Perhaps that is why we want to get away quickly from the suffering of another. Suffering spreads by contact and suffering alters travel plans. Compassion is risky and time consuming. All true love is.

As a minister for over 35 years I have noticed that I wanted to help people get past their suffering as quickly as possible. Slow recoveries seemed to me to be a sign of my pastoral incompetence and a lack of faith on the part of all involved.

Good counseling in my mind was fast counseling. I was too busy for someone's stubborn pain to slow down my plans to help so many. I lacked the speed of God's compassion.

I don't believe God wanted me to stay at the hospital for hours at a time with every person. I think He wanted me to stay as long as He needed me to reveal His compassion to a particular sufferer. I seldom remember asking how long He wanted me to stay. I guess I assumed He was in a hurry since I was in a hurry to go after all the other pain.

Fast cures certainly sound very appealing to us unless we are the person whose pain is stubborn. Perhaps the desire for fast cures explains why modern healing meetings draw such huge crowds. Compassion and fast don't match. Massive healing meetings many times reveal more frustration with stubborn pain than compassion for sufferers.

Compassion is being willing to stay as long as God would have us stay with a sufferer while going at their speed so they won't go alone.

Some of my friends who are ministers live at only one ministerial speed--fast. The faster they go, the more famous they become. They are incredibly dynamic and gifted. There is only one problem with great speed in the life of a minister and that is the fact that our calling includes showing God's compassion not just God's speed and direction as we see it.

God's compassion has its own speed. Are we willing to let God make us His campassion? I am learning to ask Him if He approves of my speed. Amazingly, I have time for everything that truly matters at His speed.

(For a Biblical example of The Speed of God's Compassion read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.)

Bud McCord
Abide International

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