9 October 2019
Gut-Wrenched Compassion for the Long-Term
Today, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on compassion, sharing and on what has brought me to work here at WorldShare as the Finance Manager for over 6 years now.
For me, I cannot remember a time where I wouldn’t call myself a Christian. There have been times where I have walked hand in hand with Christ, there are times where I have been more distant, but I have always felt that instruction, from God, to try to be the person that he calls me to be - the best of myself.
Alongside this, and intrinsic to it, has been my calling to seek justice, to seek equity, to stand up for those that need help and that cannot speak for themselves. I can remember standing alongside those that were being picked on at school and I’ve not stopped since then! It is at the core of me, part of what makes me who I am. It has at times not made me the “coolest” of individuals, but it has made me a person that, most of the time, I hope sits well with my God.
This has not just been done out of pity, though of course I do feel pity for those in need, but rather it has been done out of compassion. Pity is a feeling; compassion to me means more.
Henri J M Nouwen, a French priest and theologian said:
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless.”
As you can see, compassion isn’t a feeling; compassion is a call to action!
How then does that transpire into my, and our, daily lives as Christians?
Across the Epistles, Paul and the other authors are very clear that compassion to our neighbour is part of our Christian duty and an obligation on each of us throughout our journey as Christians. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2). Compassion to each of us should be something that we are passionate about, something that we long to do, so as to serve our God and to “fulfil the law of Christ”.
Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians that "the Lord loves a cheerful giver". Well, to be perfectly frank and honest, some days are easier than others to be a cheerful giver! But where we see abject poverty and hunger, a family in despair, a disaster emerging, or those affected by war, it’s easy to respond, to give, to embrace, in the knowledge that what we do will have an immediate and profound impact on those we are called to serve.
But as Christians, we are called to do more than just to respond in these instances. Our Christian calling is a lifelong command to stand alongside our brothers and sisters, not just when we feel compelled to respond, but throughout our lives, something which can be demanding at times.
I had the privilege a few years ago to visit one of our partner ministries in Albania. Patriot, his wife Keli and an American missionary Shelli have given their lives to reaching and evangelising to the poor and marginalised in their local communities. Their compassion to those in need is an ongoing commitment, not just a responsive act. I saw the difference that this ongoing commitment to sharing their lives and their faith with those communities had made. They are “cheerful givers” and because of this, they have become beacons of hope in their communities.
One of the stories that Patriot told me as we were going into one of the villages they work in, was that before they started to work there, the village saw between 2 and 3 suicides a month. In the 5 years that they had been a presence there, that figure had dropped to zero! They may not be able to bring prosperity or change lives, but they were able to bring the hope of the Gospel, through their ongoing, dedicated, sacrificial, day-to-day giving of themselves.
For many of us, that is not always possible however we are all called to share the resources that God has blessed us with, so that others, who have none, may also hear that message of hope. We are called to give sacrificially of ourselves, so that others too can have their lives transformed by Christ.
Here in the WorldShare team, my job is sometimes hard and one in which I can sometimes get disillusioned; but it is also one that enables me to go home at the end of the day and know that I have made a difference and that, through the wider work of WorldShare, hope is being brought to thousands of people, such as those in remote villages of Albania.
Together, we are God’s hands on this earth and when we follow where he calls, and action what he demands of us into the long-term, (whether that be to share our time, our stories, our prayers or our resources), His will is indeed done.
Jenny Hunt, WorldShare Finance Manager