I lounged back in the chair at the dentist office. The hygienist and I exchanged light conversation, but quickly it developed a more tender tone as she shared with me the recent news of her mother’s death. She talked and I mumbled in the vernacular of “patient at the dentist with the mouth wide open,” listening intently to stories of bits and pieces of her mother’s life and death. Suddenly, her eyes, peering over the edge of her mask, welled up with tears and mine, hidden behind the lenses of the protective eye wear, did as well. She portrayed the grief of having lost a dear one, and I felt a wave of compassion as memories of similar and not so similar losses were refreshed in my heart and mind.
Compassion. It is a beautiful experience in the life of a person, and a powerful one. God is full of never-ending compassion. It seems to me that compassion is cultivated by the loving hand of God in the fertile field of our own suffering. There the small seed takes root as we experience the comfort and compassion of God in our lives, through our own heartaches and struggles. Over time, as God tills and tends the field of our suffering, He brings forth the most fruitful and abundant of harvests. Compassion (amongst many other virtues) grows and becomes a source of refreshment and nourishment to others.
Compassion is different from “feeling sorry” for someone else’s difficulties and hurts. “Feeling sorry” is often a fleeting thought or sense of concern, but compassion is a deep tenderheartedness that is willing to suffer with another, and leads to action. Compassion is moving beyond ourselves and in to the lives and hearts of other people, both friends and foes. It is here that we can take the lessons and love that God has given us through our own ordeals and care and comfort others.
2 Corinthians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” God showers us with His comfort, and in turn we are not only comforted but our compassion grows and blooms so that we are able to pass on His comfort to others.
Dear reader, “…as God’s chosen people, hold and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion” (Colossians 3:12). Our struggles do not need to be the same in order for us to have compassion and bring comfort to others. We need only to be willing to reach out with a helping hand or an encouraging word, provide a shoulder to cry on, an understanding patience, a timely prayer, a hug, or a moment of silent shared tears. And in doing this, God uses us as a vehicle to transfer His grace and comfort to another whereby they are blessed and so are we. Somehow, God can use an opportunity for us to be compassionate to another as a stream that carries the vessels of healing, both in the lives of others and at the same time, in our own. I know it helped me today; I pray it helped my hygienist, as well.