Compassion is defined by “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
When I started my career, one of my main goals was to practice and improve my “compassion”. For a long time I thought that being moved to tears or feeling a sincere and deep sorrow for someone was a good sign that my heart was in the right place. But I always felt something was missing. The years passed, and as most of us know, when a person works in places where the suffering of others is the “daily bread”, a certain mechanism of defense is developed to “protect our feelings”, or to not be “distracted,” or to not let these feelings interfere in the work that has to be done to help these people. We do feel compassion, but we try to not be overwhelmed by it. But if we are not careful, in the long run, we can become desensitized to some of these experiences. Being a Christian doctor is challenging, but I’m blessed to see that through my profession I can experience God’s Kingdom’s principles so clear. The concept of helping the hurting is consistent with Christianity and a true manifestation of Christian morality and Christian love. But of course this sounds easier than actually putting it into practice…
When I decided to stay in Gracias to help take care of Jerzon, I was very worried and anxious. Many times, I got to thinking that the compassion and the special affection I had for him would interfere in my work as his doctor (this is what I thought was my MAIN purpose in the beginning…) It’s not possible to conciliate this world’s rules with the Bible’s when we work under the systems in which our world is governed. And when I say this world’s rules, I mean of some of our medical ethics principles, like not getting emotionally involved with our patients because in the end we can harm them. How was I going to keep the balance? How was I going to make good decisions while I was sharing my daily life with this 15 year old boy? I remember some mornings just watching him eat pancakes with a big smile on his face, and at the same time, I was thinking about painful procedures that he had to go through. I must confess, for a moment I thought I was being irresponsible for getting too involved in his life. But God is faithful, and I never had to make these decisions alone. Our team and Jerzon’s family made the decision making process an easier one. The Lord always showed us the way, and He showed me that the compassion that comes from Him shouldn’t stop or limit the right thing to do.
But put in practice, compassion itself is not always easy. One of a doctor’s jobs is to inform you and assess you in order for you to make good decisions. We encourage you to make your own and… if we’re Christians, sometimes we pray in our heads for you to choose what we suggested (haha, kidding). But we also have the “right” to step aside and stop insisting with someone who doesn’t want our help, or doesn’t seem to want it. But, what if you’re “emotionally involved” (like the world would call it) and the spiritual discernment comes into play? And just to give some examples: What should you do to in order to teach a 15 year old to take care of his skin properly, after finding out he was picking his scabs to be discharged earlier, lying about it and making everyone involved in his care stay more than two months under treatment for his disobedience? What do you do when a mother of a 4 year old little girl doesn’t follow post operation directions for a second time and her actions contribute to make the surgical procedure of her daughter almost a complete failure, again? What do you do when a pastor’s wife, who states she believes that medicine can be one of God’s instruments to heal our sicknesses, and is grateful with you for worrying about her still decides not to take her free high blood pressure meds just because…?
I have learned from our ministry to listen to people first and pray for discernment. Then, move in action putting into practice the true Love of the Father:
“ Love is patient, love is kind… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” New Living Translation Version says: “…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Cor. 13:4,7.
True compassion is bound in love. And to love as we should is not given in our human nature. It’s way easier to practice love and compassion towards the people that we consider “worthy”. We like to play being judges. Well, I’m so glad that the issue of us being “worthy” didn’t stop our Father to love, accept, and trust us through His Son’s sacrifice. God’s amazing Grace.
God has used this ministry to renew my compassion and my love for my neighbor. I admit that certain internal conflicts trouble me once in a while, and sometimes it’s hard to figure them out completely. But I’ve learned that although it can be difficult or even painful, I have to submit myself to Jesus and submit myself under the ones He has loved; to put my superman-knows-it-all-white-cape aside and surrender. Yes, sometimes in the world’s eyes I may look weak, but showing that His love comes first, it’s a privilege that I pray each day God would help me to embrace more. Let me tell you that I have had the blessing of working with a team whose compassion is pure, fresh, and contagious! They are overflowing vessels of that true compassion that makes us jump into action and shine Jesus’ love so brightly everywhere. It’s such an honor to learn from them each day. Taking their example encourages me constantly, and reminds me the reason why I am what I am and helps me to put into practice my life’s given purpose.
My prayer for us is that we never stop taking risks. Go beyond even our own strength to allow the real Source of our strength act (Phillipians 4:13). That we may always choose to be compassionate and loving first, so these may dictate our daily actions towards people, as we move in faith. For those of us who want to seek God’s will everyday, I think that if we let ourselves open our spiritual eyes we can see it very clearly in the needs of the ones who desperately long for what we have to share. Please allow me to finish with this fragment of one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons, where he preaches on Mathew 14:14-21. The scripture tells us when Jesus had compassion over five thousand people, and how he ordered His disciples to feed them. We see our Lord’s compassion followed by action, but yet He wanted His disciple to be a part of it. It looked like an impossible task and the disciples asked Jesus to send these people home. I pray we can see beyond of what’s in front of us and take the challenge every day. Why? In response of the love of the One who gave His own life for us, Jesus Christ our Savior:
“One man in Paul’s dream, who said, “Come over and help us!” was enough to oblige him to action. And here are millions not in a dream, but in open vision, who all at once say, “Come and help us!” Did we say, just now, we could not? Surely we must recant our words and say, “We must.” Good Master, we must! If we cannot, we must! We feel our weakness, but there is an impulse within us that says we must do it, and we cannot stop, we dare not—we were accursed if we did! The blasts of hell and the wrath of heaven would fall upon us if we renounced the task. The world’s only hope, shall we put that out? The lone star that gilds the darkness, shall we quench that? The saviors of men, and shall we fold our arms and let them die? No! By the love we bear for Your name, by the bonds that unite us to, by everything that is tender, and gentle in the throbbing of our hearts, and the yearning of our hearts, we say we must, though we feel we cannot!”