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These days it seems like my heart can’t keep up with the tragedies that have struck our country. In the wake of the devastation that hit Oklahoma yesterday, I find myself asking, “Lord, how do I respond? What do You desire of me in the wake of this storm?”
I’ve been recently reminded that God often works through relationship. Our connection to each other and to places, keeps our hearts tender for when we will need to respond to heartbreaking circumstances in a way that only we can. I’ve never been to Oklahoma, but I have friends who call it home. While I may not have the opportunity to do relief work today, I can minister to my friends' hearts, and that’s not slight God's kingdom.
But it feels slight. I fear our well-intended, action-oriented generation is prone to undermine compassion when we make its usefulness contingent on big, external manifestations. To be clear, true compassion should overflow into meaningful action. Scripture offers example after example where Christ’s compassion compelled Him to act (e.g., “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” [Matthew 14:14, ESV].)
But in our pursuit of effective action, we can minimize the importance of cultivating tender hearts that are sincerely moved for others and are ready to respond to needs even when the need is small.
Feelings can be fickle things, so they get a bad rap, but that does not make them insignificant. God engendered emotions into us when He made us in His image. Therefore, compassion is sacred. It is holy, not only because it inspires us to restore the broken places of the world, but also because when we allow others' needs to break our hearts, we obey the Scriptures' commands to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and to “put on compassionate hearts” (Colossians 3:12). In doing so, we reflect Christ's heart for the world — the Immanuel who is present in our sorrows.
According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, “Compassion is a mixed passion, compounded of love and sorrow.” As the old hymn lyrics remind us, sorrow and love were present at the cross when Jesus became our ransom for sin. Psalm 78:38 states, “Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity.”
Today, heartbreaking stories and pictures from Oklahoma will flood the airwaves and the Internet. As they do, let's be receptive to how we might be uniquely positioned to respond in big and small ways. Let's earnestly pray for the needs of Oklahomans, and let's not dismiss the role that our compassion has to play as we keep our hearts tender toward the sorrow our countrymen and women are experiencing and will continue to experience as they recover from this devastation.
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