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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 9:36’

Jo 12I am an expert at feeling sorry for people. Just ask my husband, who simply sighs and shakes his head at me, after fifty years of marriage. Last year, during a road trip interstate when we passed through various little country towns where everything looked more than a little down-at-heel, he knew what I would be likely to say next.

‘Oh, this all looks so quiet—and everything seems so old! How do the shops here survive? I feel so sorry for them. Even the pub looks deserted! Oh dear!’

Sometimes too when I spy a small, corner store right here in Sydney somewhere, I can easily feel sorry for its owner, who must find it so hard to compete with the bigger shopping centres. And when I see shop after shop all crammed together in close proximity to its competitors in one of our more heavily populated suburbs, I can manage to feel sorry for those owners too.

‘How do they all make a bean?’ I ask in a worried voice. ‘They must have to work such long hours seven days a week to survive!’

Yes, I am a champion at feeling sorry for all sorts of people—probably unnecessarily, most of the time! That is one reason I do not watch those current affairs shows that often feature some poor person who is being picked on by a neighbour or who has been duped by some dodgy, unscrupulous builder or tree-lopper or who is at odds with a hard-hearted insurance company who refuses to pay up. I cannot bear to see their need—and to be unable to do anything about it. All I can do is hope and pray the story has a good ending and that someone else who can do something about it takes action.

There is a sensible limit, I suspect, in how much energy we should expend in feeling sorry for others in this unproductive way. And there is a difference too, I think, in feeling sorry for someone and having true empathy or compassion for them. So perhaps those of us who can so easily feel sorry for others would do better if we realised this and modelled ourselves more on our great God of compassion, who not only empathises perfectly, but can actually do something about our situation.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

The Lord did not simply wring his hands and say, ‘Oh dear—what a mess my children are in!’ Instead, because of his great compassion for us, he sent his Son Jesus to rescue us. And we see that same compassion in Jesus himself in the way he reached out to those around him, healing so many and preaching the good news of the kingdom.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

What a wonderful, powerful, compassionate God we have who does not simply feel sorry for us but reaches out in love, rescuing us, restoring us and drawing us ever closer to himself!

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Jo 17I walked towards the shopping centre escalator, only to realise it was not working.  A young male employee was obviously trying to clean those grooved steps while they were stationary, while a slight young girl stood nearby, looking worried. A lady with a pram and I went to try to find some lifts, but by the time we returned, the worried-looking girl was already climbing the stationary escalator. Others were pushing past her—she seemed to be taking forever. And only then did I notice there was something very wrong with her legs.

Now she was halfway up and clinging to the side of the escalator. The young employee stood there looking helpless, while others kept rushing past. So, in the end, I climbed up to her and offered to help. She leant on my arm and managed a few more steps, legs flailing in various directions, but the effort was agony for her. Those limbs seemed to have a mind of their own.

Eventually, she let go of my arm and hung onto the side again with both hands. She managed to haul herself up a few more steps, but then stopped.

I saw she was crying. I looked around wildly and noticed a huge line-up of people behind us, but for once, I did not care. This girl needed help—she could not stay where she was.

‘I can’t go any further!’ she whispered.

‘Yes, you can!’ I heard myself say. ‘See, we’re almost at the top! Only a few more steps!’

A resolute look came over her face. With a surge of determination, she began climbing again. A young, Muslim woman wearing a pretty headscarf was standing at the top, concern written all over her beautiful face. She reached out, and both of us helped her take those final steps.

I stood there for a while with the poor exhausted girl, arm about her waist.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked her. ‘Would you like a coffee? Or I’ll help you sit down over there.’

‘I’m okay,’ she told me, as she gasped for breath. ‘But thank you so much!’

‘What’s your name?’ I found myself asking her.

‘Lisa,’ she smiled, her eyes still moist.

By then, tears had welled up in my own eyes.

‘Lisa, I will be praying for you today,’ I told her. ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’

She nodded and we parted. Still shaking a little, I decided to buy a coffee for myself. As I sat wiping tears away that would not seem to stop, it was as if God said gently, ‘Jo-Anne, this compassion you are still feeling for that girl is only a tiny fraction of the compassion I have for her—and for you—and for everyone. Oh, how much I long for them all to experience it!’

I remembered then a description of Jesus that has always touched me:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

I don’t know anything more about Lisa and will probably never see her again. But that day, I certainly sensed God’s great compassion for her—and for us all. I know it is so deep and true and wonderful—and I hope with all my heart that you do too.

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Jo 17There I was, seated behind my book table at a school Christmas Market on a hot, Sydney summer day. The first mad scramble of students was over and the bell had rung. Around me, all sorts of interesting wares were on display—handmade Christmas cards and decorations, clothing, jewellery, festive food, plants and other miscellaneous items. The idea was that teachers would bring their students, class by class, to buy Christmas gifts for parents and other family members.

Soon the youngest students began arriving, many clutching tightly to little plastic bags containing their precious five dollars to spend. It was touching to see how teachers or older ‘buddy’ students tried to help them pick out something they could buy. Some found what they wanted by themselves, but most needed a lot of help and guidance. After all, it is hard to understand why that money in your little bag isn’t enough for just anything you like! My books were out of the question for them, but I tried my best to point them to some greeting cards I sell for a friend and to the one and two dollar items on the table next to mine.

When the older primary students turned up, however, it was a different matter.  Some perused the tables slowly, trying to work out what they could buy with their limited funds, while others headed straight for what appealed to them. But that definitely did not include one young boy I noticed. I watched as he circled all the tables at a great rate—once, twice, then yet again, each time getting faster and faster. Then he suddenly stood still and looked totally lost and confused, as if it was all too much for him. His face was red—and he seemed close to tears.

Just then, one of the organisers came by and I mentioned this boy to her.

‘Which one is he?’ she asked straight away. ‘Some can find it all a bit overwhelming.’

I tried to point him out, but it was difficult, in the midst of so many children. Then I lost sight of him altogether.

Later, I wondered where he went. Did that organiser find him? Or did he give up and not spend anything? Did he leave happy? Or was he still upset?

As Christmas comes closer, I am reminded of that young boy whenever I am out shopping and take a moment to look at those around me, as they head through the centre with bulging bags and trolleys. Some seem relaxed and cheerful—but many appear decidedly harassed and overwhelmed, just like the boy at the Christmas Market. And soon I find myself remembering some words from Matthew’s Gospel about all those people who came to receive healing and teaching from Jesus in the places he visited:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

This Christmas season, let’s watch out for those around us who seem harassed and helpless, for whatever reason. Let’s do what we can to walk alongside them and ease their burdens. By our kind words and helpful actions, let’s do our best to point them to Jesus, the true Shepherd, who alone can bring that deep peace we all long for in our hearts.

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Jo 23Waiting our turn anywhere can be boring and frustrating. Yet, this past week, during a routine hospital check-up, I was challenged to react in a different way. I could choose to feel annoyed about wasting so much time, I decided, or I could opt to live in that present moment, fully seeing what God has for me to see and to learn.

Taking a deep breath, I begin to look at those around me. I notice the administrative staff as I wait at that counter. One sits staring and withdrawn at her computer, determined not to see us. Another is jolly and friendly as she talks on the phone while taking someone else’s details and keeping a general eye on things. She finally attends to me and we have a pleasant conversation about her ability to multi-task. A third worker wanders around, getting in everyone’s way. She seems to irritate the other staff, although they try not to show it. What are the dynamics here, I wonder. Why is this worker so annoying? She is older and has a thick accent. What are her personal needs? Is she lonely?

As I make it to the x-ray waiting room, an Indian woman starts chatting to me, as does her daughter. I notice an older gentleman with a glum expression sitting silently nearby. It must be his son beside him, I decide—they have the same features and profile. Yet they do not appear to be on friendly terms at all, unlike my lovely Indian lady and her daughter. As we wait, several beds with patients in them are wheeled past and parked nearby. I notice one older man lift his head from the pillow and look around as if a little frightened. No one is there to answer any questions he might have, so he closes his eyes in a resigned fashion and is still. What is his story? What is he worried about? Eventually, an African orderly comes to wheel him away. She has beautifully braided hair but looks bored and moves slowly, without even looking at her patient. What is going on in her head? Where would she rather be?

I glance around me again. So many people from so many different backgrounds and nationalities. Are they happy? Are they at peace? Do some of them at least know and love the Lord? For some reason, I remember what Jesus said when he looked at all the people who came to hear him and to be healed:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt 9:36

I don’t know these people and their stories—but the Lord does. I pray each one of them will hear his voice and follow him. I pray for joy instead of sadness, fulfilment instead of boredom, healing instead of sickness, peace in the midst of whatever is happening around them. And I repent of my frustration and my desire to be anywhere else but in the moment, seeing with God’s eyes and sensing God’s heart for those around me.

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