Compassion plus action

Published 10:51 pm Friday, March 9, 2012

By Chris Surber

Keeping up with the news has always been dangerous business. This is particularly true for those of us whose hearts have not yet grown completely callous to the wretched state of the lives of so many in this world. The real trick is to remain aware of the misery of others without growing callous, cynical or filled with despair.

Callousness is produced in the heart of the man that sees the pain of others but shrugs it off saying “I have my own problems to be concerned with.” Cynicism is more of a condition of the mind than the heart. The cynic sees the problems of others, but rather than shrugging them off from selfish motives, says in her mind “What difference does it make? You live; you die; in between, there is trouble.”

Email newsletter signup

As if these two possibilities weren’t bad enough, then there is the soft-hearted man or woman who lives in the woeful condition of having compassion on the brokenness and need of other people but stops short of assisting them in their need. Compassion without action is a sure recipe for despair.

It has been well stated that “sympathy is your pain in my heart.” No heart can manage its pain and the pain of others. Sympathy without action is like a lake that was built by damming up a river, but the builders forgot to include a gate to release the water. The water builds and builds, and when there is no release, the water forces down the dam and destroys the construction or it spills over the dam uncontrolled.

The same thing happens to us when we store up sympathy for others and never release that pain. The pain becomes more than we can bear, and it either spills over in despair or we become callous or cynical or suffer some similar fate.

Before you declare me the herald of the very cynicism I refute, let me say, there is hope. There is a way out. The God who created us also calls us to be compassionate and act. Love shown is the gate that releases the pain of others stored up in our hearts.

Compassion is not enough. Every time the Bible says that Jesus took compassion on someone, invariably the next sentence is about action that He took to love them. Compassion stored up withers, dies, and decays within our own hearts.

Don’t ask, “Why is there pain in the world?” Instead, ask “What can I do about it in the life of someone, somewhere, somehow.”

God is not calling you to great tasks but to do what you can, where you are, with what you have. Speaking of the example of the Good Samaritan, who saw a need and helped, Jesus told His disciples and He tells us, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37 ESV)

Compassion plus action frees us from despair.