Luke the Gospel writer shares a story about Jesus’ interaction with a funeral procession that caused him to respond with compassion.
Luke 7:11-15 says,
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Think about this woman for a moment, she was a widow who had lost her husband and now she loses her only child. This woman’s situation got to Jesus, it struck him at the core. He couldn’t walk by this burial procession, he had to act.
Losing a loved one to death is one of the hardest things to deal with in life. It naturally leads to a season of grieving. There are people grieving losses in their lives around us every day and it is easy to look past them.
And grief doesn’t just come with the death of loved ones, it comes with any loss in life. I will never forget being given some of the best advice I have ever received in the form of a quote. Several years ago in Africa, I was dealing with a major operational change within the mission organization with which I served. The chairman of our board reminded me that everyone in the organization was in some stage of grief due to this change. He shared with me Psychologist Harry Levinson’s quote, “all change is loss and all lost must be mourned.” This quote helped me not take people’s negative responses personally. When you realize someone is angry due to grief, it can help you respond with compassion rather than defensiveness.
When you broaden the definition of grieving to include change, many things show up like: parents grieving prodigal children, someone grieving the loss of a job, or a family grieving the loss of friends and familiarity when moving to a new town.
So many families have been affected by divorce. Some argue that divorce can cause as much or more grief than the death of a spouse. When a spouse dies, there is some opportunity for emotional closure, although many have told me there is never complete closure. Oftentimes with divorce, the wound begins to heal over with time, but then the scab gets pulled off again due to a negative interaction with the ex-spouse.
Think of the deep grief felt by immigrants and refugees. An immigrant or refugee family grieves many losses of culture when they move to a different country. I remember my Canadian wife grieving when going through geographical culture shock after moving to central Illinois. I remember her desperate question, “Where are the lakes, trees, and hills?” Now she has an appreciation for the beauty of the prairie, but then she was grieving loss.
So many are grieving all around us—do you see them? Will you respond with an act of compassion?
Reflections: Ask the Lord to help you notice those who are grieving losses and give you his heart of compassion for them. Ask the Lord to show you if there is something you can do or say to express that compassion.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.