She was sitting about five feet to my right. Dark skin. Maybe ten years old. She was wearing a white dress, a ribbon in her hair, and no shoes on her feet.
She had no shoes on her feet but she had a Bible in her lap. She caressed it like it was a prized gift. I wanted to ask her about it but couldn’t because of the barrier between us. She was Haitian and I was American and neither of us spoke the other’s language. But apparently we both spoke “Bible” so I stole a few glances to see if I could tell where she was reading.
She had come to a church meeting dressed in probably the best dress she had to wear. And she had brought her Bible. As the interpreter translated our friend’s message I wasn’t listening. I had heard him before but had not seen this girl before. After a few glances I could tell she had her Bible open to the Psalms. Even in her language I could tell it was the Psalms by the way the script was laid out on the pages.
She was turned to Psalm 34. I opened my English version and read this verse in Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” I can’t prove to you she was focused on that verse. She left before I could get the interpreter to help me visit with her. But I like to think that verse was special to her.
It’s become special to me. After seeing poverty at a level I had not experienced my heartbeat’s rhythm had been altered. You might say I felt a “kick in the gut.”
That’s what the New Testament writers called it. Their word was splanchnizomai. Our word is “compassion.” It’s origin in the Greek means “to be moved to one’s bowels.” Not a pleasant thought, is it? But at that time the Greek world believed the bowels or the intestinal area—the “gut”—was the seat of the emotions. Compassion, then, is a word to describe something that moves us deep within.
It’s a characteristic of God. The Father sees the Prodigal and he is moved to “compassion.” Jesus sees the crowd and is moved to “compassion.” And if the Psalmist is correct, and my hunch is he is, then if we want to be near God it equates that we need to be near the brokenhearted too. We need to sit with those who are crushed in spirit.
But we often don’t. The needs are many and resources can be few. Instead of doing something we do nothing. What stops many of us from doing something is we think it has to be something big.
We didn’t get that idea from Jesus. He says he is looking for those who give some food, a cup of water, an extra piece of clothing, or a visit. He has an affinity for small acts of kindness prompted by compassion. Compassion is the “kick in the gut” that moves us from seeing a person to helping a person.
If you’ve experienced the compassion of God then hold onto it like my Haitian friend held onto her Bible. Then share it wherever you can.
— Excerpt from the BELIEVE Study Series by Randy Freeze