Remember the first time you were at the top of a ski hill? Maybe you’re about to get off the lift for the first time. When you’re on a lift, you have less of an ability to wait. You are looking down and wondering if going down is a good idea. This also happens when you reach the top and now getting ready to go downhill. You have to prepare for what’s coming next. This same feeling of perhaps fear and thrill also happens once you’re on a diving board or when you’re about to bungee jump. Once you’re on the top, you begin to wonder if it was a good idea.
But once you’ve done what you’re afraid of, the joy you experience gets you past the fear the next time. Until the first jump, all that you know is what you are so scared of. This fear gets in the way of actually doing something.
There are so many ways that we get in the way of experiencing the life God wants for us. Such as in sharing compassion—in the sense of letting go of our fears and expectations to just be used by God and be used in the moment.
Sometimes, it’s our expectations or assumptions about others that get in the way. Our perspective colors our expectations and our judgments. We already have a story in our minds even before the actual encounter.
Getting in the Way of Compassion
There are two ways most of us get in the way of compassion. The first one is assuming or expecting the worst—fear. As humans, we make assumptions about almost everything. Sometimes we listen to those, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes when we meet people, we already have these assumptions in place and think of it as the truth.
In 2 Kings 5, we meet Naaman. He was a commander of the army of Syria who had leprosy. Desiring to be healed, he went to Israel with a letter to the king. Not knowing what to do, the Prophet Elisha sent a message to the king asking Naaman to meet with him instead. Elisha commanded Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan river seven times to be cleansed and healed. Bewildered perhaps by this seemingly strange instruction, he refused and almost left. However, his servant urged him to try it, and he was healed as he had done what the prophet commanded.
Let’s look at this first from the perspective of Israel’s king. He had an enemy army’s commander asking him for favor despite winning campaigns against his kingdom. In this case, it seems reasonable to side with assumptions and assume that maybe the “guest” was trying to pick a fight. Even worse, he was a leper, someone who was considered ritually unclean. Therefore, anyone who interacts with such a person will also be ritually unclean.
What assumptions do you make that can stand in the way of being part of God’s compassion through you to other people? Sometimes these assumptions can hinder us from seeing some of the amazing things He is doing. Many times, we think that when a person asks for help, they are already asking for our time and money, which is why we are so quick to put up our walls and excuses as to why we can’t help. And in the end, we miss an opportunity to help.
The second way that we get in the way of compassion is expecting the best in terms of what we think is the best. Since we live with our thoughts 24/7, we believe in our own expectations. We believe that it is what it should be, which is why we can reject compassion in other forms. In Naaman’s story, he must have already thought about a different way he might be healed without dipping in the river. Perhaps like Naaman, we have a narrative in our mind as to how things should go and ways they shouldn’t. When things happen not according to our plans, we justify our own anger. This caused him to almost miss out on his healing. He was humbled as he followed the prophet’s instructions.
Facing the Unexpected
In the New Testament, Jesus wasn’t the one the crowd was expecting. When Jesus returned to Nazareth in Luke 4:14-30, He stood up to read the Scriptures and introduced himself through the words of the Prophet Isaiah in verses 18 and 19:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
God has already revealed His Son to the people, and yet Jesus wasn’t who they were expecting. Though they saw His gracious speech and got a glimpse of His power, they were furious at Him. Their expectations hindered them from knowing the Son of God.
What assumptions and expectations can stand in the way of you giving and receiving compassion from others? From Jesus?
Many of us would say, “I trust Jesus, I believe in Him,” but we tend to be comfortable where we are in what we know of Him. Sometimes, we have expectations on how He should act on our behalf even though we know that He is God. There are even times that we doubt that He will move in our lives. So as we set aside our assumptions and expectations, let us allow Jesus to help us in big and small ways.
If we’ve missed out on giving and receiving compassion, there’s forgiveness for us.
Jesus did everything right for us so that our holiness is not based on how we fulfill the law but on how well he did for us. He took the place of sinners who might have hurt him and who might have laughed at him. He even asked His Father to forgive those who put Him to death. Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing (Luke 23:34)”. By what He did on the cross, there is now forgiveness for all of us.
Our Lord Jesus allows us to receive and show compassion freely. He gives us more and more chances to see what he is capable of when we just let go of what we’re afraid of or what we think we can or can’t do.
Revive us, Lord, to share with those around us compassion. To share when we see others in need. To share, no matter what it looks like. Revive us to experience this joy. Lead us to let go of our expectations and assumptions. Father, help us to stop in the moment when we’re tempted to continue what we’re doing when we create a story before we talk to anyone. Allow us to give it to You and see what You can do. You are leading, and You are showing compassion through us. Revive us as You restore our joy to show Your compassion to the world. Amen.