Most of us are reasonably compassionate people. If we see someone, especially someone we care about, in distress or difficulty our natural inclination is to do what we can to fix it. We don’t like to see our loved ones suffer or struggle and even when the circumstances are beyond our means and ability to alter we can still pray.
But do we really help when our prayers are guided primarily by human compassion? We ask God to step in and perform a minor miracle and heal physically or emotionally, or provide funds, or resolve conflict or whatever the particular circumstance is that is causing the suffering. But what if God has something greater in mind? What if the thing we are asking for would actually impede and impair the greater thing God intends to accomplish.
Let me give you an example. My Dad, who pastors a church in Abbotsford, recently underwent twin cataract surgeries, one on each eye a couple of weeks apart. During the healing process he is unable to wear the contacts which are necessary to correct his astigmatism which causes him to see multiple images. Just having his eyes open creates a great deal of stress and strain which is exhausting and gives him a headache. Combine all these factors and it’s amazing he can walk let alone study, prepare for, and present a sermon.
My natural compassion immediately leads me to pray that God would quickly heal him. That would fix the problem. But I resisted and instead waited on God for something greater that he wanted to accomplish. I ended up praying for a supernatural recall of scripture in his preparation, and an increased level of sensitivity to God’s voice as he preached that didn’t depend on notes he couldn’t read anyway. I prayed that during these weeks of difficulty and frustration God would speak to people through Dad in deep and profound ways that would echo through out eternity. If you ask me, or my dad, that’s far better than just fixing his eyes.
God’s compassion is far greater than yours or mine, but so are his purposes. If you will take the time and invest the effort of asking and listening for God’s will in the difficult and painful things the people you know are going through, what you will accomplish on their behalf will be far greater than anything you could have imagined or asked for based only on your compassion.