When Love Conquers Compassion

When Love Conquers Compassion

“Unless you suffer the pain
of spiritual discipline
you will suffer the pain
of spiritual defeat.”

– Ian Gardner

She walks her son down the long hospital hallway. People scurry about and take no notice of the suffering mother and child. Mattie holds firmly to his mom; in part to keep his balance, but mostly he wants to feel her warm hands in his own. “I’m tired mom. Please, I want to sit down;” but she does not let her son stop. He has to keep walking. He must exercise his limbs or his body will not heal. Only two days earlier Mattie was burned when a pot of boiling water was knocked from the stove; severely injuring his arm and leg. Pain now fills Mattie’s three-year-old body, but his mother’s love must force her son to walk. It takes every ounce of strength to resist the urge to pick up her son, to hold him, to comfort him, and to let him sit in his little red wagon. If Mattie is to recover from his burns, love must conquer compassion. Holding back her tears, a mother’s love must force her son to experience suffering. For Mattie, healing is on the other side of pain.

Where are you along life’s path? Do you hurt? Does no one stop to notice your pain? In the darkest moments, you cry out to your god, “Where are you now! If you are real… if you are really loving… Where are you now when I need you the most!” Anger is a constant companion. Sorrow seems like the only escape from depression.

Only when your “god” becomes Father will you understand. Only when you experience a love that forces you to walk will you know rest. You must pass through the agony before the ultimate healing comes. Step after painful step; hold firm to the warm hand of the Father and know true love that conquers compassion.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

The Loss of Wonder and the Descent of Humanity

The Loss of Wonder and the Descent of Humanity

What are we to make of the recent attack in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds injured? What would motivate a man to undertake such an evil?

The investigation into the specifics of his motive are ongoing, and I cannot pretend to have a complete answer. There are; however, some basic facts that can tell us some important things.

The shooter was wealthy. By all accounts, he had enough wealth so that he no longer needed to work, but spent his time in leisure gambling. From the outside, he was a financial success living a life that many people look upon with envy. so why would a man of success, living “the dream” do such a terrible thing?

In part, the answer comes when we realize that setting goals and fulfilling dreams is far different than having meaning and fulfilling purpose. Ravi Zacharias in his book, Recapture the Wonder: frames the question well:

Skeptics would use a tragedy like this to point to the absence of God in the human experience. “Where is God in such disfigurement?” ment?” they will argue. “How can one blame this man for seeing no purpose and fulfillment in being alive?” I think it is here that we make our first very subtle mistake, both in our logic and in our experience. It is shallow reasoning to deduce that because pain or unfulfilled dreams have brought disappointment appointment to experience, life itself must be hollow and purposeless. less. In fact, this conclusion may miss the deeper problem within our common struggle to find something in life of ultimate purpose.

Ravi Zacharias. Recapture the Wonder: Experiencing God’s Amazing Promise of Childlike Joy (p. 3). Kindle Edition.

It was observed by family that the shooter had:

“No affiliation, no religion, no politics. He never cared about any of that stuff. He was a guy who had money. He went on cruises and gambled.”

This, to me, is a picture of depression, isolation, sadness, and sorrow… not success. Ravi goes on to observe something important here we can all take to heart.

You see, fulfilled dreams are not necessarily fulfilled hopes. Attainment and fulfillment are not the same. Many dream and wish for the attainments that would make them the envy of our world. Careers, positions, possessions, romance … these are real goals, pursued sued by the vast majority who are deluded into believing that succeeding in these areas brings fulfillment. But deep within there is some stronger longing, sometimes even hard to pinpoint. We know there is a vacuum, a space of huge proportions that seeks a state of mind that attainments cannot fill. That dream of ultimate fulfillment is intangible but recognizable, indefinable but felt, verbalized but imprecise, visualized but blurred, inestimable but traded in for something less, something daily. I suggest it is the greatest pursuit of every life, consciously or unconsciously, and it is not mitigated by one’s worldly success. That

Ravi Zacharias. Recapture the Wonder: Experiencing God’s Amazing Promise of Childlike Joy (pp. 4-5). Kindle Edition.

Too many people are consumed with living a dream that empties us of our souls. We see poverty as the anti-hope and wealth as the ultimate fulfillment. But if we can learn anything from the shooter in Las Vegas, it is that the size of ones bank account does not correspond to fulfillment. Ravi says:

I believe it is possible that those who have attained every dream may be at least as impoverished as the man at the dump-perhaps even more-as they bask in the accolades, knowing that the charade is shattered by the aloneness within them.

Ravi Zacharias. Recapture the Wonder: Experiencing God’s Amazing Promise of Childlike Joy (p. 5). Kindle Edition.

We can talk about gun control. We can talk about mental health. We can talk about Islamic radicalization or Antifa. These are all important and necessary conversations. But right now, today, we also need to talk about meaning and the value for human life that only comes from God. Without God, there is a loss of wonder that only leads to the descent of humanity. If you are someone struggling to understand why, then the first step is to turn towards Jesus Christ—the one person who has all the answers.

Today, amidst the terror of inhumanity, I am reminded of the old hymn I used to sing when I was a kid.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu’rors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Forgotten Gifts Remembered

Forgotten Gifts Remembered

2628_69212082951_676992951_2285436_5092477_nDave was orphaned in Vietnam when a land-mine took the life of the person carrying him–most likely his mom or dad, but he can’t remember now.  Dave lost his leg in that accident, but was rescued by American soldiers and taken to an orphanage. Dave was adopted by a family in America, where he became my roommate, and one of my best friends, at Penn State University.

Even in college 15 years ago, Dave walked with a cane, but since then he has grown weaker due to a degenerative disease that hinders his mobility. Dave shot this picture of these old stairs to represent his struggle. I share both his photo and his comments with you today; first, because they touch me deeply and second, because they remind me to embrace God’s blessings in the midst of my own trial.

“There are gifts that we are unconscious of … until the day they are demanded back from us. It is then that we discover the infinite number of times we had thoughtlessly used them … and it is then that they cease to be gifts. They become … little daily miracles.” — Dave Young

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