Being happy-go-lucky around a person whose heart is heavy is as bad
as stealing his jacket in cold weather, or rubbing salt in his wounds.
- Proverbs 25:20 TLB
Recently, my husband's company had a round of layoffs that lasted for several months. During this time, there was an executive in the company that took it upon herself to "coach" those who were told that they were being let go. Instead of showing these people the compassion they desperately needed, she made light of their situation, and tried to get them to look at the "bright side." When this executive became a victim of layoffs herself, she shocked everyone by becoming sour and spiteful, and willfully damaging company property before her departure.
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes that we Christians make is failing to respond to others with Christlike compassion when they are going through difficult times. I must confess that I have been guilty of this offense myself. In an effort to cheer someone up or give them hope, I've said things like--"Pray harder," or "Spend more time reading the Bible." The truth of the matter is that sometimes the best thing we can do for someone who's going through a trial is to just listen with a compassionate ear, or cry along with them. Scripture says: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15 NASB) The New Living Translation puts it this way: "When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow." In other words, God wants us to genuinely empathize and sympathize with others when they are hurting. The best rule of thumb in situations like these may be one that Jesus gave us in Luke 6:31 (TLB)--"Treat others as you want them to treat you." When we're suffering, the last thing we want is someone minimizing or shrugging off our problems. Proverbs 25:20 TLB says: "Being happy-go-lucky around a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing his jacket in cold weather, or rubbing salt in his wounds." While we don't want to encourage a hurting person to indulge in self-pity or drown in despair, we also don't want to "rub salt in their wounds" by making light of their pain or ignoring it altogether.
I've heard some well-respected ministers say that one of the main reasons the Lord allows us to experience trials is so that we can be more compassionate and understanding toward others in their own times of adversity. I believe that's true. When someone we know is going through a negative experience that we've been through ourselves, we have the unique privilege of being able to say to them, "I know how you feel, and I understand." When I was having major troubles with my son during his teenage years, I was most encouraged and comforted by other parents who had endured similar problems with their own teens. Even though these folks couldn't offer me any concrete solutions, just hearing them say something like, "I've been there, and I feel your pain," made all the difference.
If that woman executive at my husband's company had firsthand knowledge of what it was like to be suddenly jobless BEFORE she attempted to counsel her laid-off coworkers, she might have reacted differently to their sad news. Instead, all she did was expose her hypocrisy and lose the respect of those around her. The apostle Paul warned us against this kind of hypocrisy when he wrote: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." (Romans 2:1 NIV) Paul goes on to state: "You then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?" (Romans 2:21 NIV) In order for us to make an impact on the world--to be the salt and light Jesus calls us to be--we've got to be "real" and not phonies. With God's help, we can reach out to hurting people with the compassion of Christ, and we can set a Christlike example for others when we are the ones who are hurting. Let's let the world see our compassion. Let's let them see our joy in the midst of trouble. Let's let them see Jesus in us!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You said: "You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate." (Luke 6:36 NLT) So I ask You to help me to "put on a heart of compassion," each day, just as Your Word instructs. (Colossians 3:12 NASB) Guard me from indifference, coldness, and bitterness, and keep me free from hypocrisy. Thank You that as I seek to follow You daily, You will touch and change lives through me!
- J. M. Farro