Undeserved suffering | 500 Words on Grace
by You Have My Word
Compassion: a deep awareness of, and a feeling of sympathy towards, someone else’s suffering with a deep urge and urgency to alleviate the suffering. The prefix “com-” means “together with, in unity, equality”; “passion” originally comes from the Latin word “passiō” which means “suffering.”
Yes, I realise I’m meant to be writing about grace; I am, I’m just painting the picture before I colour in the lines. Here goes: sometimes truth skips the head altogether and rips straight into the heart. A few weeks ago I found myself floored by four words in a message from a friend: “Cause God has compassion.” Almighty God feels our suffering completely and wants to, with everything He is, alleviate our pain. He did.
Take our sin for example: we screwed up (actually, we do all the time) and God sent Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus being completely man, completely equal with us, He experienced our suffering in all its fullness – temptation, sorrow, rejection, mockery, loneliness. His alleviation, then, of our suffering was dying on the cross. He took our pain as undeserved suffering upon himself. Compassion.
It goes further than that. God intended that all our suffering be alleviated through Him in some way (and subsequently through Jesus and the Holy Spirit too). If I need healing, He is Healer – that’s alleviation. If I need provision, He is Jehovah Jireh – provider – and gives me what I need. If I am alone, I can know He is with me. If I need _____ (insert suffering), He is _____. Compassion. He knows our pain intimately and gives us a way out.
It perplexed me then when I thought of Psalm 145:8 and Joel 2:13 and Exodus 34:6 when it speaks of God as being “gracious and compassionate”. The grace comes before the compassion. Why? Grace: to be given what is undeserved. God gives us what we do not deserve: salvation, forgiveness, continued provision, comfort…. We so easily fall short of His goodness; there is no way we could ever earn anything He gives us and yet He gives it anyway. Gracious.
“Gracious” comes first – giving what we don’t deserve; “compassionate” follows what we’ve been given – knowing our suffering completely with a deep desire to alleviate our pain. God gives us what we need before we have met our suffering. Because He is out of space and time, He provides for us in a way that may not make sense until we’re face-to-face with our hurt and dejection and trauma and wrestling. He goes before us.
“Cause God has compassion.” Gracious God, completely compassionate. Every heart ache I’ve ever felt, He has felt completely. Any pain and longing and desperation I’ve felt, He has known completely. He, God, has presented alleviation for all of it – in whatever form it comes. He suffers with us (undeservedly), and leads us to His grace where we find solace and strength and solutions and salvation and safety.