You see, for the past few weeks I have been wrestling with how we (notice I have included myself in this) sometimes spout off these cliches or flippantly quote Scirpture. When people are struggling we tell them just to trust, followed by a plethora of passages on that very topic. At times we tell people who are hurting that God is in control and "what the Devil has intended for harm, God will use for good." Therefore, in the midst of that, choose to be joyful--which is not the same as happiness. Or perhaps a close friend is living in a world of doubt and we tell them to simply have more faith. There are still others we inform everything is in God's timing, not ours.
There is nothing wrong with any of these answers, is there? Afterall, Jesus told his disciples to have more faith. Time and time again, God has brought good out of the bad. Scripture tells us there is a difference between joy and happiness; and let's not forget joy is a fruit of the spirit. It is important that we trust God, even when it is difficult. God is also sovereign and knows what he is doing, so it seems things really are on his timetable. So if this is all true, what, if anything, is wrong with these answers?
I have come to the realization that more often than not, people don't just want answers. And if we are honest, we all realize these are rarely the answers to life's problems. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a vast majority of people believe the Bible has credible historical significance. For many, the hang up is whether or not the contents of its pages is still true today, 2000 years later. In a perfect world, I could tell everyone it is and they would listen; but the world in which we live is far from perfect. They have doubts and the burden of proof lies with me.
We live in a world that needs proof; real-life, rubber meets the road kind of proof. And this is where you and I come into the picture. We are the proof people need. I know this may come as a shock, but as followers of Christ, the world believes we will actually act out what the Bible teaches us and what Christ has shown us.
Now let me turn a corner and throw some statistics your way:
1 in 10 lines of the Bible is about generosity.
1 in 6 lines of Luke is about generosity.
(Generosity means that we take care of those around us.)
Every time the Bible talks about church, it talks about helping those in need.
Every time the Bible mentions compassion, it is followed by action.
What is compassion? Is it expansion of government or religious programs? Is it a synonym for leniency, as when lawyers ask a jury to have compassion for an accused murderer by letting him off? Compassion is defined by dictionary.com as "a deep awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering; the human quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it." "Wanting to do something about it?" True compassion goes beyond wanting to do something about it. Compassion without action is only sympathy.
This seems to be our societal problem. We are always looking for the easy way out. We have done such injustice to the word. The emphasis, as the word itself shows—"com" (with), and "passion" from the Latin pati (to suffer)—is on personal involvement with the needy, suffering with them, not just giving to them. "Suffering together" means helping the unemployed-but willing-to-work, adopting hard-to-place babies, providing shelter to women undergoing crisis pregnancies, tutoring the determined illiterate, and so on.
If we return to the Bible, we will find that the true meaning of compassion becomes quite clear; afterall, the Hebrew and Greek words commonly translated as "compassion" are used over 80 times in the Bible. Their most frequent use is not as an isolated noun rather it is used to show the culmination of a process. And this is what I have found to be the answer to ALL of life's questions and problems. This is the example we find in Christ. To live a life of compassion. To walk with others through the twists and turns of life, no matter where they find themselves.