Compassion is a gift God gives those who He trusts that has a heart like His. Not everybody has it to the degree to where it consumes the individual. But a very heavy heart and burden for others is as natural to them as breathing. It is not something they learned or got educated in, it is something they are God-gifted and born with.
The word literally means, “to suffer together.” The Latin root of the word, compassion, is pati, which means “to suffer.” The prefix, com-, means “with.” In other words, “to have compassion” means you have fellow feelings or sympathy. It is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. That’s the difference between compassion and empathy, though they are related. While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire and passion to help.
Someone I know very well has this gift. They can feel when others are suffering and will go out of their way to try to meet their needs. If they can’t help in the physical, they cry out to Jesus in prayer and in intercession. And I don’t mean a cry like a plea, but a cry like tears and emotions so stirred that weeping arises in them. They grieve and suffer just as the definition states, but also they do everything they can.
Everybody has this gift to a degree but some have it at max level. There are very few recorded in the Bible that had compassion tied to their character – the daughter of Pharaoh for Moses (Ex. 2:6), David for King Saul (1Sam. 23:21), and of course God and Jesus. If Pharaoh’s daughter did not have compassion, there may not have been a Moses to lead Israel. If David did not have compassion, King Saul would have had a very short time in office and possibly David would have not taken the throne with Godly integrity.
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.Psalm 86:15 NKJV
I am forever grateful that God has compassion for us. We definitely don’t deserve it, or His grace and mercy, and He doesn’t owe us a thing, but yet He suffers with us. He has compassion so much that He sent His Son to deliver us from hell, sin, and the grave. While Jesus walked this Earth in the flesh, multiple times the Bible records that He “moved with compassion”. You might not be called to move with compassion at max level, but you may recognize someone that is. Encourage them. Pray for them. See if you can do anything to help. Have understanding that they are not acting on their own behalf, but on behalf of Jesus’ examples and love.
Elder Steve Smith