This evening I am sitting on the couch, in my peaceful little waterfront condo. Well, actually it’s on a creek, but my hubby and I like to pretend it’s a little grander than it really is! It’s been a beautiful summer day here in the Mitten (aka Michigan) with blue skies and sunshine in abundance. Tonight’s dinner of baby back ribs are slow cooking in the oven while my 158 pound, 7 year old dog that we affectionately refer to as “the puppy”, snores quietly at my feet. I am sipping a cup of my favorite hot tea (PG Tips, in case you are wondering) and I’ve decided to turn on the TV to watch the news while I surf around the internet for a bit. I’m passing the time until my man gets home from his errands.
I must confess I’m a news junkie. I can’t help it, really. I think it’s in my DNA. I come from a line of people who love to know what’s going on. Politics, current events, entertainment… yes. Local news, US news, world news… yes, yes, yes (sports… umm, no). I watch the news on cable and on the web. I check it on my smart phone app. I follow it on Twitter. Multiple news sites and multiple times a day. There are news stories that make me happy and news stories that make me sad. And then there are days like today. Days when the news hurts my heart and grieves my spirit. Days when I need the box of Kleenex with me to dry the tears as I watch tragedy unfold before my eyes. These are the days that it’s hard to watch.
Sometimes people will ask me how I can watch the news so much when it’s nothing but bad news. They tell me to just turn it off or else I will start to get depressed. Sometimes I’m tempted to agree and just unplug from it all. But I just can’t do that. I can’t sit in my comfy, safe, well- appointed life and ignore what the rest of the world is living with. I don’t understand why I live such a blessed existence and others do not. I have never lived through famine, a typhoon, war in my backyard. I can’t imagine living under such poverty and oppression that I’m willing to send my child, all alone, across a border into a foreign land in the hopes that they will have a shot at freedom and prosperity. What would it be like to watch my entire town be wiped out by a virus? What if my daughter was kidnapped while sitting in math class, taken into the jungle to be sold into slavery, never to see her again?
It would be so much easier to turn the channel. Just stick my head in the sand and watch I Love Lucy re-runs. But if I did that I would be unaware of the pain and the needs of people around the world. And if I was unaware, I would become insensitive. If I become insensitive, my heart will never beat with compassion (Colossians 3:12). And if I lack compassion, I lack Christ.
I recently finished a seven month study on the book of Matthew. One of the things that really stood out to me was that over and over again, when I would read about Jesus healing or forgiving or meeting some need, it was always compassion that moved him to do so. “When he saw them, he had compassion”… it’s a phrase frequently found in the gospel. So what exactly is compassion? I found this definition for it:
“A feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow for another who is stricken with misfortune, accompanied by the strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
When Jesus had compassion for the people that he encountered, he didn’t just feel bad for them. He had a desire to alleviate their suffering. And so he did. He forgave them, he fed them, he healed them. He died for them. For us. For me.
Compassion is not easy. It places us square in the face of pain and suffering. It is inconvenient, tiresome, uncomfortable and often excruciating. It makes you want to just look away. I am so glad that Jesus didn’t do that. I am glad he didn’t look away when faced with the need of all of mankind. I am so glad he didn’t choose comfort over compassion. I want to be like that, don’t you?
I am painfully aware that in my own strength and ability and resources I can’t do much to set right all that is wrong in this world. But I know the One who can. He is full of compassion, tender-hearted and merciful. And so I will keep watching the news, with my Kleenex close by. And I will allow myself to feel sorrow for those in need. I will desire to alleviate their suffering. And I will pray. I will pray to the God of all comfort. It’s all I can do. And it’s the best thing I can do.
Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.