(by Heather Marshall)
For me, the advancing of the calendar to January marks a time of reflection on my spiritual journey over the previous year, and this serves to motivate me to grow deeper in my walk with God with the goal of becoming more like Him.
One of the characteristics of God that I continue to seek is His compassion. Hebrew and Greek words translated compassion in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.”
As God’s children, we have all experienced his compassion at the moment of salvation. Before salvation, we were enemies of God; we deserved eternal punishment for our sin, but God had mercy on us and gave His beloved Son to bear our judgment on the cross so through faith in Him we are saved and given eternal life.
Along with the compassion that we received at the moment of salvation, the children of God also receive his compassion on a daily basis for our individual needs and concerns.
Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us that the Lord’s compassions never fail, they are new every morning. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
God’s daily compassion can often be revealed in areas of our lives where we have strayed or been unfaithful to Him. Jonah was no stranger to the compassion of God. He fled from God and disobeyed God’s direction to go to Nineveh to share His message and yet God redirected him and sent miraculous interventions in the form of a violent storm and a rescue by a giant fish. Jonah could say of God, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).
Like Jonah, I have experienced the compassion of God in many areas of my life this year, but I have particularly felt His compassion in my shortcomings. I have written in past blog posts about my struggles with negative self-image and making body image an idol in my life. God’s revelation to me of my erroneous thinking on this was evidence to me of His great compassion, because with my confession, He has provided me with freedom from the burden of these negative thoughts.
One of the great privileges of being a recipient of the compassion of God is that we can take that compassion and use it to serve others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 expresses this idea, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Being vulnerable and sharing our struggles is not easy but can be such a blessing because it reinforces God’s compassion in our lives. God, in his mercy, also uses our honesty to comfort and help others who have similar difficulties.
This year God gave me the privilege of sharing His compassion in my life through the opportunity to write about my journey for the Living Loved community. He also opened the door for me to share His love in a weekly women’s faith and fitness class where we exercise with a spirit of stewarding our good bodies, and we meditate on the Word of God as we move.
These avenues of sharing have been an amazing blessing to me and are evidence of His compassion to me as He turned my sin into an opportunity to serve!
Sadly, looking back on the story of Jonah, we see that after his miraculous salvation from certain death, he did not take his experience of God’s compassion and use it to bless the people of Nineveh. Yes, Jonah did preach to the people but he still held a spirit of bitterness in his heart as he really did not want the people to repent (Jonah 4).
Fortunately, God’s ability to work in the lives of the people of Nineveh was not limited by Jonah’s attitude. The whole city, from the king down, repented of their evil ways and God did not bring the destruction that He had threatened. Nineveh was rescued, but I can’t help but wonder how much more blessed Jonah would have felt had he allowed God’s compassion to really infiltrate his own heart.
Friends, my encouragement at the beginning of 2023 is for us to look back over the past year to see evidence of God’s compassion in our day-to-day lives.
Let’s allow that compassion to propel us to find ways to show mercy to those around us so that we may “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and by doing so, experience the many blessings God has in store for us this year.