This piece was a runner up in Canada’s The Word Guild Fresh Ink writing contest. It was born out of my time living in Seattle, where I served at Hope Place Women’s Shelter & Recovery Program.
When you look at a person who is suffering, what do you see? Compassion is not a feeling as much as it is a way of seeing. Jesus has taught me to look with eyes of hope for people, so that when I see someone suffering I see not only the pain, but I also see the beauty that has potential to be. When I think about the freedom a person can experience, it motivates me to walk along side of them and support them in the midst of their pain or trials.
The word compassion comes from the Latin word compati, meaning to suffer with.
Choosing to suffer with another person is not easy, because suffering is painful and hard, but I am moved to suffer with a person because I believe in the future of that person. I believe there is hope for them and healing in the love of Jesus Christ.
Compassion is the conscious choice to place yourself in another’s shoes and taste, if only for a moment, the suffering that they carry with them throughout their life. Compassion is grown by empathy: it is grown by slowing down to see another’s pain, and once you’ve seen it, letting it spur you on to action.
Jesus was motivated by compassion – He allowed compassion to change his day and who He ministered to. He was always doing the work of the Father. Compassionate living is the will of the Father.
I live my life to suffer with others, because Jesus suffered for me. When I drink the wine and eat the bread I am partaking in His suffering, I am acknowledging that He laid down His life for me, and I’m expressing that I want to follow in His footsteps. So I’ve committed to a life of meeting people in their suffering, sitting and mourning it with them, and then offering them hope.
Although inherent in a life of compassion is suffering, there is a healthy way of navigating it. If I only sat with another person in their suffering, without bringing hope or prayer, and without keeping my own inner faith fueled, I would only serve to become as immersed in the pain as they are without helping the situation at all. We’re not called to chase out pain merely for the sake of pain.
Pain is the road to somewhere else, and if we lose the sight of the destination we’re likely to get stuck there, and that is not what God intended for us.
I can’t even begin to describe the ways I have changed and grown since I stepped off the plane and entered this world of compassion and service. The way I see people has changed, the way I talk to strangers has changed, the way I relate to my friends has changed– there is now this underlying layer in me that always looks to comfort, bring hope, and seek transformation.
That’s what Jesus does to you.