The Cost of Compassion

December 13, 2022 | Jaci Miller

As a child, I loved the television special, “The Care Bears in the Land without Feelings.” The villain, Professor Coldheart, lacked feelings. In contrast with the Care Bears, Professor Coldheart didn’t care about others at all.

For years, I’ve felt like that. Cold. But God has said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:36). I’ve prayed for this — a greater heart for others. Out of my coldness, I cried for a warm heart. To be broken for others and love them more.

Lately, I’ve been feeling compassion welling up in me. Thank the Lord for answering this prayer!

As I’ve felt that compassion growing, so too have I felt the nudging of the Lord to risk and risk more. To do the hard thing and reach out to strangers. I confess, I have failed at this. It’s haunted me. Almost like a loss. Maybe that’s what it is. A loss for me: the chance to experience God working in someone’s life. A loss for them: a gift God wanted to offer them.

I didn’t know when I prayed for compassion that the gift came with the need for action. Oh, I’ve felt the nudging to act, all right. But round and round I went. The mind games I played with myself. Should I talk to that person? Is what I’m hearing really of God? Am I making this more about me than them?

Then, poof. The person is gone, and I’m left in a state of emptiness. The hollowness that comes from disobedience. Because that’s what it comes down to. I didn’t obey God.

2 Corinthians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort …” God is compassionate, and I’ve asked Him — the source of all compassion — to stir my soul. And when He does, I question it.

God had compassion on us when He sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus had compassion for us when He willingly took on all our sins and hung on the cross. In our broken lives, compassion is what drives God to meet us where we are. God’s “awareness of [our] distress and the desire to alleviate it” (Merriam-Webster) is the hallmark of the Gospel. Compassion crossed the sin gap.

Praise God that Jesus didn’t worry about mind games. Again and again, His compassion drove Him to action (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34).

His compassion drove Him to the cross.

Compassion without action is mere sentiment. Compassion costs. It requires me to lift a foot and cross into what God is doing.