When you experience a hardship in life, would you prefer to see someone who is compassionate or hopeful?
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
— Colossians 3:12 (NRSV)
I am often hesitant when someone’s face expresses sorrow when I tell them of a personal hardship. I wonder if they are merely putting on a mask to look compassionate. I wonder how or even if their feelings of sympathy or sorrow will develop beyond an expressed desire to alleviate suffering.
But when I visit people in hospitals and nursing homes, I strive to leave them with a feeling of hope for the future, a hope beyond what we can see. I am motivated by their suffering. But compassion is not enough for me. Thanks to modern medicine, I can trust doctors, nurses, and technicians to care for physical symptoms and cure diseases of the body. But when people invite me to visit them in times of distress, I desire to offer spiritual healing.
I may frown and my stomach may twist into knots on hearing of your hardship. But that is not enough. Having received the gift of hope, I feel compelled to share it.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
— Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV)
Are you hopeful or compassionate?