Day 34: Gathering the Fruit of Compassion
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:9b-11
Each of us has a heart of concern for friends and neighbors, both near and far away. We feel God’s heart of compassion in our own hearts, minds and emotions. God’s purposes touch us and move us.
Some concerns arise from our past experiences and some are arising in our life right now. While one person cares for the elderly, lonely and homebound. another one of us hurts for victims of violence and abuse or people who are suffering with addiction, or those who are hungry and poor.
The Bible teaches how God is deeply concerned for the poor and those on the fringes of society.
The suffering world can be overwhelming; so learning to listen to your heart, and recognize God’s caring heart in you, is important for spiritual growth and vitality, and it’s the way God speaks to us and motivates us to action.
You may already know how you have been called to serve others. Some of us are not sure how to care, and we are paralyzed or demotivated by the feeling that our little part cannot make much of a difference anyway. When we deliberately attend to our heart of compassion through prayer and reflection, God is able sharpen our awareness and set us free from inaction.
We each have a unique call and different concern, and this is good. For instance, I like to spend time with the elderly, just listening to their life stories, while my husband Dave has a huge heart for children, especially those who need attention and encouragement from loving adults.
You will have a certain type of person or issue that grabs your heart and won’t let go. When you tend to this concern, your life will produce the fruit of compassion and the fruit of helping others in Spirit-led ways.
When you respond to a God-given burden and give of yourself to another, the Spirit does far more than we could ask or imagine, and the resulting good fruit is not just of our making, it comes from our abiding in Jesus Christ and offering his love to the hurting and vulnerable.
Go to a garden or park. Find a quite place to sit or walk. Notice the ground under your feet, the grass, the trees, water and sky. Contemplate the wonder of God’s creation. Look at the horizon, where the sky meets the earth, buildings and trees. Imagine the size and sphere of the earth and contemplate the various needs of scores of people all over the world. When one member hurts, we all hurt.
Think about current events, news, the mission activities of your church and other organizations who care. Ask God to show you where your heart connects with the worlds great needs. Pay attention to the things that come to mind.
Ask God to develop your heart of concern into God’s heart of love, hope and action for this particular need.
Silently make a commitment to allow God’s Spirit to continue to develop and motivate your concern and your response.
Conclude with a few minutes of recording your thoughts on paper or talking them over with God.
Did you miss the intro? Start here.
[This six-week devotional is based on a daily life retreat by Pegge Bernecker and her book, Your Spiritual Garden: tending to the presence of God. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006.]