Please join me in again welcoming ETL’s guest writer, Dave Gossett, as he guides us with truth through one of life’s most painful questions.

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Job, a man who experienced unimaginable grief, found it compounded by his “comforter and friend” Eliphaz who stoutly believed the innocent do not suffer. Yet several portions of this man’s disparaging assumptions leveled against Job contained truth. One of which was “… man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7)

It seems that no one gets out of this life without some measure of trouble, and Christ followers are not exempt from illness, disability, the emotional pain of depression, post-traumatic stress, grief from the death of love ones or broken relationships, and the list goes on. But during our pain, one question may loom large:

“God, do you care?”

Just knowing that someone cares when we are in physical or emotional pain is huge. We send sympathy cards or messages to show we care about someone who is suffering. And this brings a measure of relief to the recipient.

God has been known to send sympathy messages.

In one example, after the Israelites had endured 430 years of slavery in Egypt, God announced His plan to deliver the nation through Moses and Aaron. “So, the people believed, and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.”  (Exodus 4:31) The mere knowledge that the Lord cared about them, a show of compassion, was what moved them to worship.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-37), the priest and the Levite each passed by on the other side of the man in the ditch. Yet the Samaritan man “felt compassion” and not only dressed his wounds, but provided lodging for him. Jesus told His listeners that the one who loved his neighbor was the one who “showed mercy toward him. The Samaritan’s compassion moved him to action. This is how we know he cared.

When the two words mercy and compassion are used together, they are usually translated “tender mercies” (see Luke 1:78; Philippians 1:8, 2:1). And we can see the tender mercies of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry.

Consider the time Jesus was approached by a leper, who no doubt had been in isolation. The Lord stretched out His hand and touched him (Matthew 8:3). Probably, this was the first touch this man had received (by a “clean” person) in many years.

Jesus knew the man needed healing, but also needed a touch.

This is tender mercy.

On another occasion, Jesus observed a dead man being carried out, the only son of his widowed mother. This woman had lost her son in addition to her sole means of livelihood. In Luke 7:13-15  we’re told, “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’. Then He came up and touched the coffin, and the bearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

And there is the account of Jesus and his friend Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha. He had been summoned when Lazarus became ill, but Jesus intentionally delayed His coming for a few days. (John 11:1-7)

“Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him and fell at His feet, saying to Him,’ Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:32)

Mary was in effect saying, “If you had come when we called, my brother would not have died. Did you not care about us?”

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled … [and] Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35)

And then we have the account of the two blind men. “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed Him.” (Matthew 20:34)

We can see in Jesus the same compassion, the mercy—the tender mercy—of His Father. Jesus said, “… he who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) The heavenly Father cares for his children. He is “… the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort and comforts us in all our affliction.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

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How does Almighty God comfort us in all our afflictions—the physical and the emotional pains? And in our heartbreaks? How does He bind up the brokenhearted?  (In reference to Isaiah 61:1 and Psalm 147:3).

We are given two clues, the first of which is found in John 14:16:

  1. As Jesus was giving His last words to the disciples, He said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper [Comforter] to be with you forever…” This is the Holy Spirit and He will comfort us in the same way Jesus comforted people repeatedly. With tender mercy.

If we think back to the “comforters” Job had, we see these three friends meant well in coming to sympathize with him and comfort him (Job 2:11-12). They wept with him. They mourned excessively, tearing their robes and throwing dust on their heads, and were rendered speechless for days. (Job 2:11-13) They were sincere! Yet they lacked God’s wisdom and understanding, as we see in continued reading and study of this fascinating book.

The beautiful mystery of John 14:16 is that Holy Spirit God has given us as a Comforter is all wise, all powerful, all knowing, and completely unified with God the Father and God the Son in having compassion. He will never give us the wrong input; He never misunderstands the work and wisdom of God the Father.

The second clue we have of the way in which God comforts us in all our afflictions is found in Hebrews 4:14-16.

  1. The writer of Hebrews declares that believers have a wonderful provision in Christ Jesus, a great high priest who can sympathize with their weaknesses. He was human, He had been tempted, He was afflicted, and He had known distress. Furthermore, our high priest lives and is seated on a throne; not one of power and corruption, but of grace.

Historically, no one could approach a king’s throne without an invitation, but we don’t have to fear. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy [compassionate or sympathetic help] and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

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We can conclude that—indeed—God feels our pain. He cares when we are hurting. His mercies are new every morning and they follow us all the days of our lives (Lamentations 3:22-23 and Psalm 23:1-6). But as we are reminded in James 4:8, we believers must draw near to Him to receive these tender mercies…

Just as a child draws near to a parent to receive a hug of comfort.

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

4 Comments

  • Evelyn says:

    Thank you Dave for sharing these deep truths

    • June says:

      To Evelyn from Dave:
      It is my pleasure to share this. As you might suspect, coming to better understand these truths has been a part of my faith journey recently.

  • Anne says:

    So timely… We all appreciate and gravitate to those who share compassion… why then do we find ourselves looking the other way or find ourselves “too busy” to share the compassion. Lord help us – help me – to take time… to make time to share compassion-not just in words but in acts of love. Help us to actively “be” the body of Christ.
    “…You were the ones who held the light when I thought I had lost my way
    You were the ones who welcomed me in when I had no place to stay
    You were the ones who bound up the wounds of my broken heart
    You were the ones who cheered me on when I made a brand new start
    You – are the body of Christ
    You – are the body of Christ
    You are His feet who walk in the streets
    You are His mouth words of grace to speak
    You are His hands reaching out
    To the heart that needs mended
    You – are the body of Christ…”

    • June says:

      To Anne from Dave:
      So insightful. Thank you. There is so much opportunity to be the body of Jesus to those who are hurting. Why do we tend to look the other way, as did the priest and the Levite? I wonder if we can be so vulnerable to express compassion unless we are first secure in God’s love/compassion. I echo your prayer; Lord help us- to share compassion.

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