The Burden of Compassion

Hang with me.  This is long, but there is a great lesson at the end of this post that can help you talk to someone who is suffering.

There seems to be so much suffering around me right now.  Since January 1st of this year it seems as if someone I've known has passed away each week.  Sometimes 2-3 people in a week.  I've heard of cancer diagnoses as if its epidemic in our county.  I often wonder if its really more rampant or am I just getting older and am more aware of death and know more people in the older generation?  Part of me hopes that this increase of tragedy around me is God's way of ushering in the Tribulation.  Lord Jesus I am ready to go home!

Right now I am reading through Job in the Bible.  For those of you who many not be familiar with the story I will give you a very abbreviated, laymen's version:  Job was a righteous man; God even called him "blameless."  God allowed Satan to "test" Job through a series of horrendous, mind-altering calamities.  Job lost his sons, his fortune and his health.  The book of Job is a series of conversations between Job and the 3 friends who come to him to provide comfort and advice.  The comfort that they try to offer becomes ridicule and condemnation.

The three friends, with their self-righteous attitudes, tear Job down as they berate him with their false philosophy that God punishes the wicked man and rewards the righteous man.  Surely Job is lying about his sins since God's wrath is upon him.  Their words of "encouragement" are bitter, mocking and only add insult to injury.

Job questions God many times.  He is angry with God but Job never curses God.  He remains faithful in his trust that God's hand is still upon him, even though it is unseen.  Oh, how many times have I felt that way! I couldn't begin to count the times that I cried out to God asking why he had forsaken our family.

(everyone really needs to read the book of Job.  Seriously.  Go and do it now!)

How many times have you been to a hospital room to visit a dying relative?  Do you have a friend that has cancer?  What about your best friend's husband who has been laid off of work and they are barely making ends meet?  I'd like to offer you a suggestion as you try to being a friend to them during this time.

Iva May says "People who have not suffered struggle to enter into the sufferings of others." Do you get that?  It's the very definition of empathy.  Sympathy is a totally different thing.  Empathy means that you have been there.  Empathy means that you are actually able to share in a persons suffering through mutual experiences.

To be clear, just because you haven't experienced the pain doesn't mean that you can't be a  comforter during your friends time of mourning.  Please don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that at all.  But what I am suggesting is that you guard your words carefully.  Beware placated comments such as "They are in a better place," "At least they aren't suffering any more," or "God just had a different plan for her."  While all of these things are true, they can come across as condemnation or trite to the one suffering.

Unless you speak from your shared experience, you need to remember that only God can comfort the soul of the hurting.  Go.  Sit with your friend.  Hold the hand of your best friend.  But guard your words.  I can tell you from experience that your silent presence will make the most profound impact.  Because to the suffering, there are really no words that can make anything better for them.  Only Christ can provide the peace for which their soul so desperately yearns.

As Erik and I continue to pray about the Go Lucy Go Foundation I have been brought to my knees every morning as I read through Job.  Here are two points from my Chronological Bible Study (Iva May):

  • "Identification with, acts of service, and kindness bring greater consolation than words spoken." 
  • "Those who've suffered either become bitter toward others and God, or they become softer, kinder people who enter into the sufferings of others. " 

Through this reading I feel as if my spirit has been renewed and my energy for the Foundation has been revived.  I would like to ask for your prayers this week as we are exploring some exciting opportunities related to the Foundation.  I want to be completely in God's will and not in my own.  The great deceiver is working on my heart but I know that God will reveal His plan in His time.  

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which ourselves are comforted by God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. " 2 Corinthians 1:3-5


  1. You are precious. Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you to encourage us!

  2. Hi Kate,
    Great summary of Job! There is just so much to learn from Job's life and the suffering he went through. Thank you for sharing your insights and I agree that just being with someone who is suffering is comforting. Just last night my daughter came home from school with a heavy heart and on top of that an email came in that greatly disturbed her. My words of trying to help her understand the 'why' of the email just made he angry with me. After a bit of time she started to complain about a pain in her stomach and just trying to do a menial task set her into tears. I came over and just hugged her, consoling her with my touch and silent prayers. Sometimes our good intentions of helping someone understand just backfires on us and the best comfort is just a loving touch and the nearness of our presence.

    Praying for wisdom and for Father to clearly shine His light on the path He wants you to take.


  3. I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face and a lump in my throat. Thank you SOOO much for sharing this. I am in this boat right now. One of my brothers was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer and given less than a year to live. I know that my God can show out at any time and that is our prayer. But I have also already dealt with a lot of deaths in our family so it is HARD to not wonder why God is putting us through all of this. I lost my dad 20 years ago to lung cancer. I lost my 3 and 1/2 year old niece to brain cancer in 2004, my step-dad of 17 years to a heart attack in 2006 and another brother in a car accident in 2007. He was in a coma for seven months before he passed away. So as you can imagine I am completely devastated at what God has chosen for our lives right now. I know that God is with us every step of the way. My mind knows all of that but my heart is crying out, where are you? I have been so hurt and felt so abandoned by what I thought were best friends. I go over and above for my friends and always have but while going through this, there are some that aren't there at all. They will comment on fb and then sometimes send me a text when they see that post but that is it. And you are right about be careful what you say. We know you mean well and I am sure I have done it myself but I am hurting. I am sad. When going through such a hard time, we just want someone to check on us daily or several times a week, come over and spend time with us and try to help get our mind of things. We know you don't have the magic words, there are NONE. Do you care if I share this on fb sometime? Thank you for the encouragement. I definitely needed to hear it.

  4. Pepper, I am now praying for you and your family. Please feel free to share this if you think it will help someone. I am sorry you are in a position to have to lend this kind of compassion. I pray that God will give you the words to say (or not say)

  5. So. This is wild. I followed your journey from the beginning and prayed with you as you fought for your precious Lucy. I checked for updates daily for probably close to two years, and less often after things seemingly "settled". I went through some pretty big changes in my own life, and honestly hadn't checked in for over 18 months, at least. Fast-forward to this morning, I rushed my kids off to school and hurried into work. I opened Safari on my phone to look up a number, and, there it was -- your blog was open on my phone. I recognized it right away, and remembered my son had been searching google for cube blocks. I have no idea how it got to your blog!! I hit "back" and it went back to the cube search on google. "Forward" ... your blog. No links are purple, indicating that one of the links took me to your site. It's the craziest thing. So, thankful for the reminder to check in, I sat down and caught up a bit. And very quickly landed on "The Burden of Compassion" post. And I NEEDED to read this post. So much. And now, I'm going to go read Job. Very clearly, I was led this morning -- directly here. And I couldn't not share this moment with you, because for every one that shares that you've touched them, there are probably a thousand who are quietly touched that you might never know. Thank you for taking the time to pour these words out of your soul -- for sustained and continued compassion are not for the faint of heart. But reading your words renews my strength.