“To be loved but not known is comforting, but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from the pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Tim Keller
Compassion, co-suffering, feeling things deeply that affect the other, fully knowing them. Compassion compels love. I’ve spent so much time trying to convince those I love the most in my life of how much God loves them, of His compassion, but too often I have lost sight of it for myself. I tend to think of God’s love as human, as conditional, but when I read and accept God’s truth of compassion, grace and unfailing love I am liberated, as the quote above states. I’ll never earn it or deserve it but He gives it freely.
We are human and we fail each other all the time. He always believes in us, always forgives and always gives us all of Him, no matter how often we fail and fall. Knowing that I have been given mercy helps me to focus on where I can grow to be the best version of myself and to extend mercy instead of blaming or holding records of wrongs. It helps to extend mercy to myself, those who may hurt me in their own pain, even the parent whose abandonment I have allowed to influence my ability to accept love and compassion for myself.
Psalm 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
In a recent bible study, I learned the Hebrew word for love is Hesed. It means, “a completely undeserved kindness and generosity.” It is not just a feeling, it’s an action. It is not romantic love. It’s faithful. It’s reliable.
Isaiah 54:10 “‘The mountains may disappear, and the hills may become dust, but my faithful love will never leave you. I will make peace with you, and it will never end.’ The Lord who loves you said this.”
Our love may be conditional, but God’s love is unconditional. His love is immutable.
Sometimes it can seem like God has gone out of his way to hurt me because He could have just as easily prevented certain things from happening in my life and my childhood, and from losing loved ones along the way. In these moments it’s hard to imagine He loves me. It’s also hard to accept when some of my pain is self inflicted, brought on my by own sin, or my choosing a faulty perspective over His truth.
Just because it is hard for me to sometimes see God’s love through the definition of Hesed does not mean it has changed. Sometimes in the painful moments He is actually being compassionate. It is in these moments that I am open to being transformed in ways I wouldn’t be otherwise.
In John 11, we see that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. But when they called for him, He stayed away for three more days. In their greatest pain God seemed absent, deliberately. It seems cruel but He had a bigger plan.
John11:35-36 “Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, ‘See how much he loved him!’”
Grief can also show me something really beautiful, how some of the people I grieved left an imprint on my life. How the love I had for them was real and how important they were and will always be to me in some way. God allowed them to be in my life to ultimately draw me closer to HIM. It’s gonna hurt, sometimes for a long time, but the beautiful thing I have discovered is that in the grief I am not alone. God is with me. He comforts me, heals me and He doesn’t waste any of the pain. I can be grateful for the love I shared and lean more into God’s love for me.
I have also been that person in need of forgiveness and compassion. I have been hurt and made decisions that left me desperately needing love, grace, and mercy from others, but most of all from God. The first step to showing the compassion of Christ is to recognize our own need for His compassion — His love, grace and mercy.
I realized recently that the most powerful testimony of God’s love isn’t my trying to convince anyone of it, it’s acceptance of it for myself.
When I am compassionate with myself, I not only extend compassion to others, I live in it regardless of others actions or reactions towards me. I heal. This is the love of God people can feel and see. It’s uncomfortable, hard and inconvenient in the times I forget the compassion He has shown me. When I remember Hesed, I can see myself through God’s eyes.
God’s undeserved kindness and generosity transforms.
John 13:34 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
Eph4:2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each other’s faults because of your love.”
A few years ago, kind or gracious are not the first words people would have ever used to describe me. Yet today they are. I don’t say this to boast but to the testimony of what God can do when I lean into His love and compassion. I’m not perfect and I still have a lot to grow in, but I know as I continue to pursue God, He will continue to work within me, as he is doing. One day, there will be more words used to describe me that are not who I am in my nature, yet who I will become through His mercy and love. I become more patient, compassionate, humble, softer, and gentler. Patience means choosing to trust God even when the circumstances haven’t changed yet.
Today, I choose to lean into His compassionate love for me. To be kind and love without expecting anything in return. I may not know the plan but He does, and because He is good, I can trust it is good.
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