RELIGION
01/29/2016 03:40 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2017

The Cost of Compassion

I can't help it.

I think too much. I wonder too often. I work too hard to make sense of things.

And the thing that is puzzling me right now is why people pull away from those experiencing deep and lasting pain.

Like the pain of burying a child. Or the burden of chronic physical disability. Or the unceasing struggle of overcoming addiction.

I think I've hit on a few possibilities:

  • There is no end in sight. None of these scenarios offer a tidy final chapter that wraps loose ends into a comfortable narrative.
  • It challenges what we believe about God. It's one thing to consider the problem of pain and suffering in the world from a theoretical perspective and quite another to experience it in real time.
  • Our days are too full of "busy work" to leave room for real ministry. Overscheduled and frazzled, we don't have the emotional, physical or psychological energy required to stand with someone while they battle.

So we trade pity for compassion.

Pity says, "I'm sorry for you. Let me do something for you that makes me feel better."

We offer platitudes and prayers from afar as a substitute for presence and personal interaction.

And when our attention is turned elsewhere, we drift away -- abandoning the broken to sit alone with their pain.

Most of us don't mean to do it -- we just move on, leaving the limping behind.

But the cold shoulder wounds as much as hurtful words. Acknowledgement is as great a blessing as an extended hand.

Compassion says, "I see your pain. I hurt with you. Let me stay with you until you feel better. And if you never feel better, I'll still be here."

Compassion requires conscious commitment to push back against our tendency to forget those who live with things they cannot change and will never forget.

God Himself stepped into His creation to feel the pain of brokenness, to bear the price of sin and to open a Way for restoration and redemption.

Jesus came to make the Father known.

There is no substitute for walking with the wounded. It is costly, it is painful, it is hard.

But I would argue that when we do, we are most like our Savior.