Posts Tagged “Joni Eareckson-Tada”

Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartOur society doesn’t breed compassion. Compassion requires connecting with the pain of others and sacrificing to help alleviate that pain. It requires that we be outwardly-focused – seeing the needs of others more than we see our own needs. Compassion requires margin in our lives – that is, “white space” in which to see, feel and do for others. When we have no margin – when our schedules are overflowing and our stress levels are spiking, the white space in our lives is crowded out and we become focused on only our own needs. When that continues too long, life becomes all about us instead of all about others.

Read these verses about the compassion of Jesus:

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14 (NLT)

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
Matthew 15:32 (NIV)

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
Matthew 20:34 (NIV)

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
Mark 1:41 (NIV)

When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Luke 7:13 (NASB)

Do you feel the compassionate, loving heart of Jesus in these verses? As I read them, all together, not separated by circumstances and other stories, I see Jesus’ loving and compassionate heart more clearly. I see Him with His hand reached out to touch, heal, wipe a tear and comfort. I see His extreme care for those who are harassed and helpless, for those who are sick or hungry, and for those who need to be made clean or be comforted. I see His extreme care for people like me.

Jesus’ heart of compassion stepped into the hurting experience of others and did something practical to alleviate their suffering. Joni Eareckson-Tada talked about compassion and suffering in an address at Westmont College. I was moved by these words:

Helping somebody like me [that is, someone suffering with a severe disability] – God asks us to hook our veins up to that person who is hemorrhaging human strength – because we show Christian love when we pour our heart out into another’s life as though giving a spiritual transfusion. Warm and personal, reviving and life giving. That’s what Christian compassion means.

When we reach out in compassion to somebody, we’re reaching out into their suffering.

The world has so much suffering in it today – it is bleeding out of control.

When people are hurting, His church – and who else is there, it’s just you and me – His church is the agent of comfort and mercy and grace and encouragement, showing, not just telling, but showing His love. Not just proclaiming it, but portraying it. Helping them to experience it.

Jesus had crowds and crowds of people pressing in for attention from Him. He knew the pressures of too much to do and too little time. Yet He kept His outward focus. He saw the suffering of others, was moved with compassion and took action. He wasn’t too busy or too poor or too tired, although surely he had too much to do, too little money and too little sleep. He found His margin – that is the white space within the noise – by spending time with His Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Mark 1:35 (NIV)

It’s in the Father’s presence where we find our margin for the day. It might seem like adding an appointment with God to our already full schedule would take away even more of our white space, but it doesn’t. Somehow it expands the white space, giving us margin and purpose at the same time. It allows us to hear God’s heart – that heart of love and compassion toward us and others – and enables us to show that heart to others.

The passage in Mark goes on to say that when His disciples found Jesus they said something like “Come on! Everyone’s waiting for you!” Jesus didn’t let them steal the peace and purpose He’d just received from being with the Lord. “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’” (Mark 1:38, NIV)

Jesus had a full schedule. He had little money. He had others pressing in on Him. But He allowed the Lord to work through Him, showing compassion to people who are harassed and helpless, sick or hungry. He showed His compassion to us so that we might show His heart of compassion to others.

Last summer I met a woman who was widowed at a young age. Undoubtedly she and her young children suffered a great loss. One of the things she told me is that she doesn’t let a day go by without doing something good for someone in need. It might be as small as helping an elderly woman reach an item on an upper shelf at the grocery store or buy a burger for a man living on the street. The key is that she does something. Every day. Developing a habit like my new friend changes the way we think. Little by little, act by act, it builds God’s heart of compassion into us.

What about you? Are you showing God’s heart of compassion to those around you? Do you see the pain, suffering, loneliness and hunger in the eyes, the walk and the behavior of others? If not, perhaps it’s because there is no margin in your life. Perhaps your own needs are crowding out the needs of others. Follow Jesus’ example so you can follow His behavior. Get alone with God so He can pour His heart into you and then you can pour it into others. Pray for a compassionate heart like His – then live it!

You can watch Joni’s entire message at Westmont College here:

 

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Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
Be wise enough to know when to quit.

Proverbs 23:4 (NLT)

I worked quite late last night, so this verse got my attention this morning. We have a part-time employee who is moving on to a better opportunity and I’ve been wondering about replacing her or absorbing her responsibilities myself and/or handing them off to the few other employees we have. Business has been exceedingly slow this year, so it’s not an automatic decision.

Do I increase my workload (sigh)? Do I hire someone else when finances are so tight? Would I be able to make more money by offloading these responsibilities to some other person or am I saving money by doing them myself?

I don’t know the answer to those questions yet, but the Holy Spirit has been regularly nudging me to seek God’s wisdom on the issue. I’ve tried…but sometimes seeking God’s wisdom is easier than other times. I suspect you know how that is. His wisdom doesn’t always seem obvious, does it? I suppose if it was always obvious, it wouldn’t be wisdom because wisdom is something we seek out. At least that’s the theme of Proverbs, which we’re reading this month in our Resting at the River’s Edge readings.

So this morning, after I’ve read more chapters than I anticipated reading and when I was really planning on stopping, I thought “well, maybe I’ll read a chapter of Proverbs before I call it quits”…even though my stomach has been telling me to make lunch for about twenty minutes now. I give you this much detail simply as an illustration of how the Holy Spirit leads me. Many people say “I don’t feel led by God.” Often it’s that they don’t recognize God’s leading in everyday life. I am working through an issue and I’ve been praying about it, but I don’t have God’s clear leading. I am finished with my morning Bible reading yet simply feel a desire to read more. That “more” brings me to a verse that touches on the issue I’m working through. That’s God’s leading.

Do I have an answer to my question of whether or not to hire a replacement for our employee who is leaving? No, not yet. But I have a confidence that I have God’s attention on the matter – He’s working on it and He’s working on getting the answer to me. Of course God is always attentive to our prayers and is always at work in answering them and in changing us to conform to His son. It’s just that sometimes, when in the midst of indecision, I need to be reminded of that. That’s what God did for me this morning with this verse.

He’s also reminded me not to fret about it. I’m to do what I can each day and know when to call it quits. That doesn’t mean get it all done, then go home. That means being able to say with peace “I’ve done enough for today. I’ll leave the rest in God’s hands and return tomorrow.”

It reminds me of a line from an old Joni Eareckson-Tada song:

Each mile I put between the past
And the future in Your hand,
I learn more of Your providence
And I find out who I am.
from My Little Tune/Journey’s End by Joni Eareckson

Each step (or mile) that I put in God’s hands gives me the opportunity to learn more of how He cares for me and what my role in this world (and the next) is. Putting unfinished tasks in God’s hands is a tremendous way to learn those things. We tend to think that finishing tasks is how we learn/experience who God is and who we are. No, it’s really more about the journey.

I’m not promoting a laissez-faire or “what will be will be” attitude. Trusting God is much different from that. Trusting God is intentionally putting things in His hands and then resting in the knowledge that He has them under control. It’s an active thing. It’s a placing and resting – a putting life into God’s hands and learning more about Him and ourselves.

What situation do you need to place in God’s hands today? Let me encourage you to do so, then rest while you wait for His wisdom.

Need some help? Check out this video of Joni’s song:

 

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