The young man fidgeted as he sat down for his flight. His eyes darted back and forth to the aircraft windows. Then he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to calm himself—but it didn’t work. As the plane took off, he slowly rocked back and forth. An older woman across the aisle from him put her hand on his arm and gently engaged him in conversation to divert his attention from his stress. “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “We’re going to be okay,” and “You’re doing well” were a few things she whispered. She could have been irritated with him or ignored him. But she chose a touch and a few words. Little things. When they landed three hours later, he said, “Thank you so much for helping me.”
Such beautiful pictures of tenderheartedness can be hard to find. Kindness does not come naturally to many of us; our primary concern is often ourselves. But when the apostle Paul urged, “Be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4:32), he was not saying it all depends on us. After we’ve been given a new life by our faith in Jesus, the Spirit begins a transformation. Kindness is the ongoing work of the Spirit renewing our thoughts and attitudes (v. 23).
The God of compassion is at work in our hearts, allowing us in turn to touch others’ lives by reaching out and whispering words of encouragement.
On August 21, 2016, Carissa posted photos on social media of a devastating flood in Louisiana. The next morning she included a note from someone in the flooded area pleading for help. Five hours after that, she and her husband, Bobby, sent out a call for others to join them on their 1,000-mile trip to provide help. Less than twenty-four hours later, thirteen people were on their way to serve those whose homes had been severely damaged.
What motivates people to drop everything and drive seventeen hours to move appliances, do demolition work, and provide hope in a place they’ve never been before? It’s love.
Think about this verse, which she posted along with her call for help: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this” (Psalm 37:5). This is especially true when we follow God’s call to help. The apostle John said, “If anyone . . . sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17). It may be a daunting task—but we have God’s promise of help when we “do what pleases him” (v. 22).
When a need arises, we can honor God by being willing to offer a “yes” of love to what we sense He is asking us to do for others.
Put on the R70i Age Suit and you immediately feel forty years older as you experience impaired vision, hearing loss and reduced mobility. The Age Suit was designed to help caregivers better understand their patients. Wall Street Journal correspondent Geoffrey Fowler wore one and wrote, “The unforgettable, and at times distressing, experience shed light not just on aging, but also how virtual reality equipment can teach empathy and shape our perceptions of the world around us.”
Empathy is the power to understand and share the feelings of another. During a time of severe persecution against the followers of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews urged fellow believers to “continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (13:3).
This is exactly what our Savior has done for us. Jesus was made like us, “fully human in every way . . . that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (v. 18).
Christ the Lord, who became like us, calls us to stand with others “as if we were together with them” during their time of need.
When asked to define his role in a community sometimes uncooperative with law enforcement, a sheriff didn’t flash his badge or respond with the rank of his office. Rather he offered, “We are human beings who work with human beings in crisis.”
His humility—his stated equality with his fellow human beings—reminds me of Peter’s words when writing to first century Christians suffering under Roman persecution. Peter directs: “All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” Perhaps Peter was saying that the best response to humans in crisis is to be human, to be aware that we are all the same. After all, isn’t that what God Himself did when He sent His Son—He became human in order to help us? (Philippians 2:7).
Gazing only at the dark core of our fallen hearts, it’s tempting to disdain our human status. But what if we consider our humanness to be part of our offering in our world? Jesus teaches us how to live fully human, as servants recognizing we are all the same. “Human” is how God made us, created in His image and redeemed by His unconditional love.
Today we’re sure to encounter folks in various struggles. Imagine the difference we might make when we respond humbly—as fellow humans who work together with other humans in crisis?
“Patient is combative,” the nurse’s notes read.
What she didn’t realize until later was that I was having an allergic reaction as I awakened after a complicated open-heart surgery. I was a mess, with a tube down my throat. My body began shaking violently, straining against the straps on my arms, which were there to keep me from suddenly pulling out my breathing tube. It was a frightening and painful episode. At one point, a nurse’s assistant to the right side of my bed reached down and simply held my hand. It was an unexpected move, and it struck me as especially gentle. I began to relax, which caused my body to stop shaking so badly.
Having experienced this with other patients, the nurse’s assistant knew that a hand of comfort could minister to me as well. It was a vivid example of how God uses comfort when His children suffer.
Comfort is a powerful and memorable tool for any caregiver, and Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 it’s an important part of God’s toolbox. Not only that, but God also multiplies the impact of His comfort by calling us to use the memory of the comfort He gives us to comfort others in similar situations (vv. 4–6). It is but another sign of His great love; and one we can share with others—sometimes in the simplest of gestures.
When a friend cared for her housebound mother-in-law, she asked her what she longed for the most. Her mother-in-law said, “For my feet to be washed.” My friend admitted, “How I hated that job! Each time she asked me to do it I was resentful, and would ask God to hide my feelings from her.”
But one day her grumbling attitude changed in a flash. As she got out the bowl and towel and knelt at her mother-in-law’s feet, she said, “I looked up, and for a moment I felt like I was washing the feet of Jesus Himself. She was Jesus in disguise!” After that, she felt honored to wash her mother-in-law’s feet.
When I heard this moving account, I thought of Jesus’s story about the end of time that He taught on the slopes of Mt. Olives. The King welcomes into His kingdom His sons and daughters, saying that when they visited the sick or fed the hungry, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). We too serve Jesus Himself when we visit those in prison or give clothes to the needy.
Today, might you echo my friend, who now wonders when she meets someone new, “Are you Jesus in disguise?”
Experts agree that a staggering amount of time is consumed each day by interruptions. Whether at work or at home, a phone call or an unexpected visit can easily deflect us from what we feel is our main purpose.
Not many of us like disruptions in our daily lives, especially when they cause inconvenience or a change of plans. But Jesus treated what appeared to be interruptions in a far different way. Time after time in the Gospels, we see the Lord stop what He is doing to help a person in need.
While Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem where He would be crucified, a blind man begging by the side of the road called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:35–38). Some in the crowd told him to be quiet, but he kept calling out to Jesus. Jesus stopped and asked the man, “‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you’” (vv. 40–42).
When our plans are interrupted by someone who genuinely needs help, we can ask the Lord for wisdom in how to respond with compassion. What we call an interruption may be a divine appointment the Lord has scheduled for that day.
Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Luke 18:40–41
Lord Jesus, fill us with Your wisdom and compassion that we may respond as You did to people in need.
What we call an interruption may a divine appointment God has scheduled for that day.
John Babler is the chaplain for the police and fire departments in his Texas community. During a 22-week sabbatical from his job, he attended police academy training so that he could better understand the situations law enforcement officers face. Through spending time with the other cadets and learning about the intense challenges of the profession, Babler gained a new sense of humility and empathy. In the future, he hopes to be more effective as he counsels police officers who struggle with emotional stress, fatigue, and loss.
We know that God understands the situations we face because He made us and sees everything that happens to us. We also know He understands because He has been to earth and experienced life as a human being. “He became flesh and dwelt among us” as the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14).
Jesus’s earthly life included a wide range of difficulty. He felt the searing heat of the sun, the pain of an empty stomach, and the uncertainty of homelessness. Emotionally, He endured the tension of disagreements, the burn of betrayal, and the ongoing threat of violence.
Jesus experienced the joys of friendship and family love, as well as the worst problems that we face here on earth. He provides hope. He is the Wonderful Counselor who patiently listens to our concerns with insight and care (Isaiah 9:6). He is the One who can say, “I’ve been through that. I understand.”
In 2002, a few months after my sister Martha and her husband, Jim, died in an accident, a friend invited me to a “Growing Through Grief” workshop at our church. I reluctantly agreed to attend the first session but had no intention of going back. To my surprise, I discovered a caring community of people trying to come to grips with a significant loss in their lives by seeking the help of God and others. It drew me back week after week as I worked toward acceptance and peace through the process of sharing our grief together.
Like the sudden loss of a loved one or friend, the death of Stephen, a dynamic witness for Jesus, brought shock and sorrow to those in the early church (Acts 7:57–60). In the face of persecution, “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him” (8:2). These men of faith did two things together: They buried Stephen, an act of finality and loss. And they mourned deeply for him, a shared expression of their sorrow.
As followers of Jesus, we need not mourn our losses alone. In sincerity and love we can reach out to others who are hurting, and in humility we can accept the concern of those who stand beside us.
As we grieve together, we can grow in understanding and in the peace that is ours through Jesus Christ, who knows our deepest sorrow.