God treated them compassionately
and with deep affection.
9 During all their distress, God also was distressed,
so a messenger who served him saved them.
In love and mercy God redeemed them,
lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times.
These verses sound so hopeful, but this is actually the start of a lament. The people of Israel have returned from exile and have found their temple destroyed, the city walls in ruins, and their way of life gone. Nothing was the same. They wanted God to restore them to the way it was, they wanted their suffering to be over. They felt God had abandoned them. So they recounted the stories of how God had shown compassion to them in the past, by lifting and carrying them through past adversity.
Only they missed the point, there was no going back, and it was by God’s loving compassion that they had been safely delivered. Now they had to trust God to take them forward into a new way of living, to practice the same love and compassion towards others that God had shown them, to be instruments of God’s compassion in a broken world.
Compassion flows from God’s love for us. The writer of these verses tells us that God loves us with ”deep affection” and treats us “compassionately.” Compassion is God’s response to our suffering. When we suffer and feel distressed, God feels distress with us. When we feel powerless to alleviate suffering, we can call on God for help. When we are suffering, God sends others to save us, lifting and carrying us.
Compassion means “to suffer together,” and suffering births compassion in those who have suffered. If you’ve been ill, lost a loved one, or been without resources you have more compassion for others who are experiencing the same. Compassion leads us to action, to comfort or help others who are suffering. It’s God’s love within us that acts to prevent or alleviate suffering and God’s compassion for us is infinite, always available to us as we serve others.
By Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
God is our source of compassion in a broken world. As children of God we are the servants that God sends to help relieve the suffering of others.
How have you experienced God’s compassion in your life? Have you felt God’s presence with you when you were suffering? Has someone shown you compassion when you were suffering? Do you feel overwhelmed by the suffering in the world, but feel powerless to help? Trust in God whose compassion never fails.
Prayer: Holy God, you are the source of all compassion in this broken world. Remind us when we suffer that you are with us and that you are suffering with us too. Open our hearts to the suffering of others so that we can be your servants of compassion bringing comfort and aid to others. Amen.