Jun 4, 2012 — “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Ps. 103:13).
Compassion was not something that came to me naturally. Parenting provided me with opportunities to practice it—often. But becoming a grandparent gave me the greatest opportunity of all—particularly with one of our grandchildren.
It’s not that I love her more than the others. She was born with a rare, non-life-threatening, but very difficult, syndrome. Just learning that was a painfully long road for our family; dealing with the frequent appointments and treatments and surgeries it requires draws out of me compassion I did not know I was capable of.
I would gladly take her malady myself if it were possible. My heart goes out to her. My arms reach for her. I ache for her. I have compassion for her in the deepest sense of that word—I suffer with her.
All of that has made God’s compassion even dearer to me. Just as I have compassion for my children and grandchildren, God has compassion for me. God feels for me. God reaches for me. God hurts for me. God loves me. And, in Jesus Christ, God actually says, “I would do anything to take it from you and onto myself.”
And then he does it! In Christ he heals my brokenness, and yours, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14).
Let me suggest that God exhibits his heartfelt compassion in part through the Specialized Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Think of it this way.
God sees the brokenness of some of our relationships as pastors and congregants, and through the ministry of Pastor-Church Relations seeks to reconcile and relieve and heal that brokenness.
God sees the hurts we sometimes inflict on one another and endure from one another, and through Safe Church Ministry seeks to restore what is broken and prevent further injury.
God knows the fear we have of those who are different from us and the pain that we cause one another, and through the ministry of Race Relations seeks to make one what never should have been otherwise.
God understands the loneliness in the workplace and the anxiety that resides in hospitals and the anger that is locked up in prisons, and through the ministry of Chaplaincy and Care seeks to befriend and comfort and soothe what ails us.
God, in Jesus Christ, voluntarily dis-abled himself, gave up some of his deity (what else does it mean that he “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”?) and through the ministry of Disability Concerns seeks to show the value of each of us to all of us.
God sees a world broken from injustice and hungry for bread, and through the ministry of Social Justice and Hunger Action seeks to show us how to stand up for justice and offer food in Jesus’ name.
In these ways, and many others, the “Father of compassion” shows his love to us and through us. I did not learn compassion only by walking alongside my granddaughter. I learned it through the heavenly Father who “has compassion on his children.”
God’s heart goes out to you and me. His arms reach toward us. And then he graciously allows us to be God-like, in our own personal ways, and through the ministries of the church.
About the Author
Rev. Joel R. Boot is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.