It seems that the world holds an endless supply of despair. In the past few weeks, my own life has been riddled with heartbreak, whether that be from events at home, on campus or just around the world.
Even when face-to-face with the darkness of the world, I think sometimes we find it all too easy as Christians to brush aside the hurt and focus on our hope in Christ.
This seems appropriate, because the Bible often tells us to not despair. 2 Corinthians 4:6-8 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (NIV, emphasis added)
Instead, we have a great hope, and it is that hope that we use to encourage others when they are suffering.
However, there is great value to being stirred with deep emotions when oneself is suffering, and a special value when moved to a state of anguish for another who is hurting. In the Gospels, over and over again it is written that Jesus ‘had compassion,’ for people or ‘his heart went out to them.’
One specific example can be found in Matthew 9. Jesus was walking through cities and villages, proclaiming the good news of the gospel.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” Matthew 9:36 says.
This compassion was deeper than a fleeting sense of sadness or sympathy. In fact, Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that the translation of the Greek word used for compassion is to be “moved by the bowels.”
The bowels used to be seen as the seat of all emotions and pity. To have compassion on someone was to have an all-consuming yearning to see their situation improved. Jesus was quite literally sick to his stomach with empathy for his people.
If we are to walk around, loving others with our hearts postured after Christ’s own, then even our most inward selves should be moved to care for those we see hurting.
Just as Christ’s compassion caused him to act, so can we act to show our compassion for others.
There are multiple community organizations in Upland and the greater Grant County that you can participate in to tangibly show the love of Christ. If you are moved to tears at the thought of a neighbor going hungry, you can serve food to those who often go without it by going to St. Martin Community Center in Marion on Saturday mornings.
If it breaks your heart that a local elementary student is falling behind in class, you can volunteer with Lift Eastbrook in Upland to help a student improve their literacy.
When you hear of a classmate or wingmate going through a tough time, you can be sure to follow up on the issue, even after everyone else has forgotten. Sometimes just being present with someone who is hurting and letting their hurt become your own is enough to make them feel loved.
Spending long, intentional periods of time in prayer is an often overlooked effort of compassion. This is why sophomore Jake McKim, along with the rest of his Global Engagement cabinet, planned an event to pray for the world.
“It can be hard for many of us to see so much evil in seemingly every corner of the world. It can even feel helpless trying to make a change in such a fallen world,” McKim said. “When we go to God first with every prayer, we know he hears us.”
However you choose to practice acting compassionately, do it in a way that requires a sacrificial giving of yourself. This is exactly how Christ acted for us.
Do not be discouraged when following through on these feelings of compassion means serving from a heavy heart. The hope of Christ is that much sweeter when tasted by a soul near-driven to despair.
While not during any time on this earth, there will be a time when Jesus comes back to completely and fully heal the broken hearted. Until then, never suppress the deep ache you feel for those who are hurt and in need; the ache is Christ-given.