If Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross for our sins taught us anything at all, it was that God has immense compassion for His creation. Since we, as humans, have had a hard time throughout history understanding this, He sent His Son to earth so that we, in no way, can say, "God just doesn't understand." He indeed understands hunger, anger, betrayal, disappointment...the list goes on.
If there has been anything God has taught me in the last decade, it has been compassion. Boy, we are are non-compassionate people, aren't we? If we do not understand it, we make no attempt to. If we haven't walked in their shoes, we just assume they've brought their suffering upon themselves.
I was that person for many years, the one who thought everyone should just suck it up and get tough. I figured if bad things were happening to a person, they probably brought it upon themselves. Coming from an athletic background, there was no room for excuses...or sympathy...or compassion. I had a short list of what reasonably constituted the need for compassion. Everybody else needed to get it together.
I think one of the biggest questions Christians and non-Christians ask of God is, "Why all the suffering?" We look around and see so many bad things happen and wonder why God allows it.
I don't know the full answer to that question, but I think God has taught me a piece of it over the last decade. If we don't suffer, we as human beings do not understand how to help others or have sympathy for them. If we go through an ugly divorce, we then suddenly understand that marriages are often complicated, and we begin to see others' situations in a different light. If we go bankrupt and lose our house, we begin to understand what it's like to have no one to turn to for financial help. If we become chronically ill, we understand why it's hard to get out of bed. If we suffer from depression, we begin to see similar faces, like our own, in a crowd at the mall or at church.
Everything that we suffer on earth, God promises to use for good. I believe it is for our good and for others' too. We simply, in our own power, do not have the capacity to be fully compassionate. If we did, then we wouldn't have starving children and hate crimes and bullying. Since we cannot do it in our own power, God shows us a different path, a path that leads straight into our heart and opens it up so that we might leave a footprint of compassion on the world.
We know what it feels like to receive compassion. When have you messed up, forgotten an important appointment or a birthday, burned an expensive meal, lost a valuable item, only for someone to say, "It's okay. No worries. I promise." Doesn't that just melt your heart?
God says it everyday to us through Jesus. He has compassion upon us and our very weak, often terribly brutal, nature. With compassion in place, self-righteousness has nowhere to go but away. You can't be compassionate and self-righteous at the same time, because self-righteousness by its very nature lacks compassion.
Jesus is Compassion. He is the very picture of what God's heart is. He stoops down and holds the hand of the person everyone else hates in the world. He hugs the person who is the dirtiest and smells the worst. He feeds and shelters and carries and touches those that the world casts a scornful eye to. Are you that scornful eye or the hand that reaches out?
Remember the compassion that was given to you by God through Jesus Christ. Understanding that you have received it in its most sacrificial form allows you to give it every single day.