by Matt Slick
In light of two Christian friends suddenly discovering they have terminal cancer, I have been forced to face some issues in my own life. As a Christian who defends the faith, who teaches about God's love, and who seeks to have the ministry of Jesus spread as far as possible, I find that my own heart is cold, dark, and selfish. I do not like what I see.
My two friends are facing death and one of the first things I think of is that I am glad it isn't me. I hate to admit it, but it is true that I am more concerned about myself than them. How selfish I am in my heart. My wife, who can cry compassionately for her friend who has terminal cancer, shames me by the demonstration of her kindness and empathy. My own heart does not weep as easily as hers. Instead, I am glad that I am "okay." Don't be mistaken. I feel for my friends and I am sorry that they have cancer and I pray that God will heal them both. But, I am not broken inside over their plight. I am not so empathetic as I should be because the compassion in my heart is wedded to my desire for personal safety and comfort. Somehow, I feel as though I am betraying Christ and what He stands for by being so selfish. Have I not learned what I need to learn in life so that the woes of others move me to a greater compassion? Have I become so comfortable in my life and patterns, that my heart has grown cold? Is God trying to show me something through the suffering of others?
In John 11, we read the story of Lazarus. Verses 2-5 say, "And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick... 5Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."
We know the story. Lazarus dies and Jesus raises him from the dead. But what is interesting is that Jesus waited. He tarried. He did not rush to Lazarus to heal Him after He finds out that Lazarus is ill. Instead, the Bible says in verse six, "When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was." Why did Jesus wait two days longer? It seems to that one of the reasons was so that Lazarus could die so that Jesus could raise Him from the dead and glorify God and so that the disciples would believe in Him (John 11:15) and know that Jesus is the "resurrection and the life," (John 11:25). But, please take note of what Jesus does as He approaches the place where Lazarus has died. "When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, 34and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." 35Jesus wept. 36And so the Jews were saying, "Behold how He loved him!" (John 11:33-36).
I am always impressed by the compassion of Jesus. Here He is, God in flesh, a man of men, the living Word of God and yet, Jesus weeps -- in public. His compassion was so true that He was not ashamed to cry before other men. He loved dearly and truly and His love moved Him to compassion. His compassion led Him to action.
Whenever I study Jesus and His life, I invariably feel uncomfortable because in so doing I am forced to see myself in light of His kindness, compassion, goodness, truth, sacrifice, and love. I always fall short and I always WILL fall short. So, I find that I like to hide in the corners of my own comfort and self-righteousness and say "Well, at least I go to church, don't lie, and help people understand God better. I mean, I'm not THAT bad." But the truth is, I AM that bad. I AM selfish with an underdeveloped sense of love and compassion. But, as long as it doesn't have to be tested, I can stay comfortable and secure.
Isn't that just like us to find a comfortable level of spiritual existence where we don't have to face ourselves the way we should? I don't know about you, but that is definitely a problem I have and the cancer in my friends has forced me to realize just how sinful I am in my heart which, as the Bible says, is desperately wicked and deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Again, I do not like what I see.
What about you? How is your heart doing? Are you so comfortable that your heart isn't being stretched? How is your compassion for others? How is your love for them? Are you led to action, to prayer, to help, to minister to others when they are in times of need or do you brush it off because to face the needs of others means that you have to face yourself?
We all have issues to deal with before God. But, one thing I know is that Jesus' compassion for us is infinite and holy. He knows our weaknesses, our selfish desires, and our sins. Yet, the amazing thing is that He still loves us -- in spite of what we are. He loves us not because of what we are, but because of what He is. He said He will never leave us or forsake us (Matt. 28:20). He knows us all too well and yet, He loves with an infinite love. Let us look to Jesus and learn how to be more like Him. To Him be the glory. To Him be the praise.