Recently I made the mistake (again) of telling the wrong people about my problems. If I tell you what happened, do you promise to be compassionate? If so, read on.
As I get closer to 40, my body is agreeing with Romans chapter 8 that our bodies are in “bondage to decay” (verse 21). My right Achilles takes a good hour to stop spazzing out every morning. My joints and cartilage creak and crackle with every deep knee bend. My brain forgets more names and faces than ever before.
But I’ve learned over the past few years that I can’t confess those details of decay to just anyone. Because most people respond in the same unhelpful way, with comparison instead of compassion.
“Oh, just wait until you get to be my age!”
“You think 40 is bad. Try 50!”
“Ha! What I wouldn’t give to be in my 30s again.”
Honestly, none of that helps. Comparison instead of compassion is a selfish takeover of the conversation, pushing my pain out of the way so that other’s pain can have its say. But before my aging body gets up on its soapbox, I realize that choosing comparison over compassion is something that I mentally do all the time.
Like when that teenager has to work a whopping 35 hours a week during the summer (35 hours is what I hit by Wednesday, kid). Or when a single friend tells me how terribly busy he is (try having a spouse, two kids, and three schedules besides your own!). Or when someone richer than me complains about financial stress (want to drive my van that hasn’t had AC all summer?).
Comparison must be a human nature thing. Hearing about your problems causes my heart to get out the scales of comparison, which rarely leave me feeling all that bad for you.
But there’s a better, albeit more challenging, way to live. To give up comparison and to take up compassion. To suffer with people (that’s what com-passion literally means), even if their suffering is different or less than our own struggles.
Here are three quick reasons why:
The next time you’re hurting, remember how Jesus responds with infinite compassion, even if no one else does. And the next time they’re hurting, remember the helpful way Jesus responds to you—not with comparison but with compassion.
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 in Madison and, most recently, at The CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as the lead speaker for Time of Grace, where he shares the good news about Jesus through television, print, and online platforms. Mike loves seeing people grasp the depth of God’s amazing grace and unstoppable mercy. His wife continues to love him (despite plenty of reasons not to), and his two daughters open his eyes to the love of God for every Christian. When not talking about Jesus or dating his wife/girls, Mike loves playing soccer, running, and reading.
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