The last few months, I’ve been convicted to have more compassion for others. My wife and I were having the discussion again regarding compassion and she asked, “So what makes you think you’re not compassionate?” My answer: “I just want to see people the way Jesus saw them. Were there people who pushed His “buttons”? Most likely. Yet He never sinned. He was never cynical regarding their circumstances. He wasn’t short with them. In fact, He often took a longer time with those who were struggling with something.” Sadly, that’s not the case for me. I desire deeply to love the way Jesus loved.
I had another thought regarding compassion. Too often, many of us view compassion, love, etc. as speaking into another’s life. For those of us who have a gift of encouragement or discernment, we’re quick to offer what we would do in the given situation. At first glance, that seems commendable. In other words, when we counsel we rationalize it as ministry. But is that the case?
The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be clear. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (3:1, 7 ESV). It seems to me we act upon the latter while disregarding the former. We speak quickly but are rarely silent.
An example might be helpful. A man named Job is described as wealthy before losing virtually everything. He was considered “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Yet Job experiences loss and extreme suffering. Job’s friends eventually arrive and perhaps we expect them to solve the issue or at least minimize the pain. But that’s not the case.
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, …They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him…And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (Job 2:11, 13 ESV, emphasis mine).
No one spoke a word to him – for at least seven days. That’s sympathy? It appears so. Sympathy. Compassion. Love.
Once Job speaks and describes his pain, his friends begin to offer advice. But if you know the narrative, you know their theology and the advice they give is flawed. Job remains on the defensive and eventually has his own dialogue with God. It’s as if his friends would have been more helpful if they would not have spoken. Sit with me. Be here. Show your concern. But maybe it’s better you don’t speak.
Here’s the point: We’re quick to speak because we equate busyness with good things. What if we were just there? What if we showed our concern and support by sitting and saying nothing? What if we thought it was okay to say, “I don’t know why, but I know God is faithful.”? What if we really believed God is good all of the time? Sure, there are times we should speak. But there are times when speaking is not compassion, nor sympathy or love.