"Why did he make that choice?", "How could she have said that?", "If it was me I would not have done things like....", Have these words ever crossed your mind or have maybe even come out of your mouth? I can honestly say that I have thought or said the previous statements. When I was a young Christian I thought that once you gave your life to the Lord that you should just straighten up and fly right. The funny thing is the Christians who believe that, are the ones who need the most development, and this "Work in Progress" is no exception.
Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it
(Merriam-Webster online 2017)
There have been many times that I have been sympathetic for someone, but for the most part I have lacked the desire to alleviate it. In the case of someone repeating the same mistake over and over, I have often found myself thinking, "Why don't you just stop.". Now for you, compassion may naturally ooze out of each pore of your being, but for me I have to get help in this area.
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others, better than himself."
(Phil 2:3 NKJV)
My personality is very organized, planned, and focused, I am thankful for those gifts, but mercy and compassion sometimes get lost in my planner. A few years ago God began to work on my progress in this area. God impressed on me that even though He gave me my personality, which was not that of a counselor, His compassion was still a part of my Christian package. I began to understand that He did not intend for me to use my personality as an excuse to not develop in certain areas of my life. God planted this seed in my heart and because I resisted learning this very important lesson, He then began to reveal to me my own weaknesses.
Being "a work in progress" and embracing it are two different things. We all are "A Work in Progress", but admitting it and truly growing and developing takes a decision. In the area of compassion I guess I needed a reality check. That is so God - to place something on your heart to work on and then if you do not respond He shows you why it is important that you take Him seriously. God began to show me the areas that I needed to grow-up in and then called me to publicly share them in the form of written articles.
It is so easy to look at someone else, especially those closest to us, and think, or even worse, tell them how to correct their obvious errors. I remember a time when I corrected something that my husband said, because of course I knew better. He did not even say anything about it, but as soon as I walked away God responded. In my heart I heard God say,
"It is not your job to correct him. It is your job to love him.",
For the next few days I spent much time in prayer asking God to help me grow-up in compassion. The Lord explained to me that one way compassion is shown is by allowing others to develop without your interference. I began to realize that my quick response to others' imperfections not only demeaned their work in progress, but also brought my lack of trust in God to the surface.
God is the only one that can invoke true change in someone.
The revelation of this truth has changed my prayer life. When I feel the urge to point out where someone can improve, mostly family members, I strive to put that thought away and give it to the Lord. At first, because I am not perfect, during my prayer time I would ask God to guide the person that desperately needed help with a particular character challenge. That is when God began to show me my own weaknesses and how I was the one who needed the developmental help. It did not take long before my prayers transformed into me asking God to show me how I could love on individuals in a better way.
Recently, God has taken me back to refresh my compassion. Although I went through this lesson years ago, He often, if we let Him, will bring us back to a place of development so that we can not only maintain what we have learned but apply it in all areas of our lives. Compassion, just like anything else we have learned can begin to slip if we do not regularly attend to it. In my imperfection God has reminded me that everyone needs compassion. I have begun to notice that each time I am privileged to witness some one's work in progress I am reminded of my own and the compassion and mercy that God has and continues to give to me freely. God allows me to grow and loves me through all my failures. Unconditional love is the biggest ingredient in my ability to develop to the next level, therefore I must remember that this is also true for others.
I used to believe that you can only give what you have, which is true, but I have discovered an even more true statement:
You can only give what you know that you have.
As a Christian I have always had compassion, (love is a fruit of the spirit, (Gal. 5:22), but we must clothe ourselves with compassion and choose to put on love, (Col. 3:12 and 14 NIV)). Love, with compassion, was planted on the inside of me when I received Jesus into my heart, but having it and knowing it are not exactly the same. When I began to seek God's wisdom on compassion I learned, and continually learn, what compassion really is and how to live it out. I have come to realize that my daily growth is dependant upon me allowing those around me to grow. Through this process, God's compassion, His desire to alleviate our distress, will be expressed in our love to one another.