When an emergency happens, people are often quick to respond. Their hearts naturally go out to those in need, and they begin to think of how they can help. Some emergencies are dealt with quickly, but others, by their very nature, require persistent, ongoing effort.
National or worldwide disasters, epidemics, entrenched hunger and poverty, prolonged conflict, even chronic illness, may demand continuous and patient attention in order to achieve resolution. So how can one keep from wearing down?
A good place to start is to elevate one's sense of compassion. Compassion actually has a spiritual source and is something more than the mixed human passion of love and sorrow. Another term for compassion is mercy, and true mercy is actually a divine attribute. The Psalmist spoke of this kind of mercy in the 23rd Psalm, where God is compared to the dedicated shepherd.
That psalm ends with the assurance, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...." The verb mildly translated as follow can be translated to the more demanding verb pursue. Realizing that a divine animus is "pursuing" each of us with goodness and mercy has strengthened my compassionate efforts. The way I see it, divine Love actually pursues us with mercy; Love never lets up or wears out or gives up. Seeing compassion as a relentless, caring attribute of God reveals that there is much more behind our desires than mere human effort.
Compassion is a healing response, and as with all healing, it is much more effective when it's seen as divine grace, rather than a factor of the human mind. Divine grace, or the divine influence in the heart and mind, is what lifts us up, preventing us from wearing down. Grace is actually God working through us. Here is the perfect model for compassionate action: realizing that one can do whatever is demanded through the strength and grace of God.
And to accomplish that requires keeping one's thoughts, motives, and desires in relation with the Divine. Centered on God. But even this focus isn't solely a personal effort. One's ability to keep consciousness in relation to the Divine comes from the pursuit of grace, divine Love. It is, as the Apostle Paul once observed about the demands of working out one's own salvation, "God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
God working in you to do His-Her own will is the power behind compassion. And just what is that will? Doing God's will is actually exercising a perception - perceiving what God knows about any situation. Amid the angst of wondering, "Why did God allow this to happen?" is the divine demand to see what God sees. It's not God that causes disaster and discord; it's the material theories about life and existence that inevitably bring their disheartening implications. If one sees life through the lens of mortal reasoning, then everything portends this mortal nature - destruction and decay. But through the grace, or influence, of God, life can be perceived spiritually.
It may be difficult to accept that people experience what they perceive as their definition of life, because one of the implications of human existence is the belief that no one is ever quite in charge of his or her life, that factors "out there" can always determine one's safety, happiness, and well-being. Yet one of the threads running though history is the fact that spiritual perception always trumps mortal reasoning.
Whether it's an individual experience or a worldwide demand, compassion needs to be based on a spiritual premise-that of the activity of God. No matter what the situation is, a determination to see the presence of the face of God is sustained by God's grace, Her pursuing care. And you can individualize this infinite power. Knowing that God is working with you, you can expect to see inspired resolution.
Adapted from The Christian Science Journal.