What Saying No Has to Do With Compassion

Of the many things that busyness steals from us, compassion is close to the top of the list. Who of us, when we’re stretched thin, has time to enter into another’s pain? Writing about compassion at praylivecreate.comupdate: image by Lizzy Gadd

Last weekend my husband was away on a business trip. And when he came back the first thing he wanted to do was lay on the bed together with our window AC unit blowing in cool air against the mugginess outside and talk about the things he’d seen and heard.

He told me about an article he read in the NY Times about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and how officials had narrowed the outbreak down to the very first victim, who they were calling Patient Zero: a 2 year old boy. The child brought it home, then the mother got it, then the sister, and the entire family. They all died. So did the doctors treating them. And the others who came into contact. The people at the funeral homes and the families of those people.

Ebola is tearing communities apart.

This is not news to anyone, but because I’m not great at staying up to date with what’s happening in the world, the specifics were news to me. Apparently the article went on to say that only two organizations are on the ground, truly making a difference: Samaritan’s Purse and Doctor’s Without Borders.

They needed gloves, Heshan told me. That’s it. Rubber gloves could have saved lives.

I remembered what it was like when I was denied medical treatment for an illness I went through, and I thought back to two weeks ago when Steph had strep throat and even in our sophisticated medical system had to go to the doctor three times to get the antibiotics she needed to get better. I remembered how much it sucks to be sick or watch the people we love be sick and not be able to do anything about it, and for a moment I felt their pain.

In that split second, I wanted to send the rubber gloves. Or at least the $10 it would take to buy some.

And it was also in that split second that I realized that in order for us to be generous we must feel another’s pain.

In His earthly ministry, Jesus felt other’s pain. A guest speaker at my church told us that the original word used in Mark 1 to describe the way Jesus felt about a man begging to be healed of leprosy is actually better translated to being punched in the gut. Jesus felt His pain. He saw the man suffering and it felt like having the wind knocked out of Him.

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” – Mark 1:40-41 (NLT)

Of the many things that busyness steals from us, compassion is close to the top of the list. Who of us, when we’re stretched thin, has time to enter into another’s pain?

I usually want to run from the ugly stuff, because most days it feels like I have enough problems of my own. One of the reasons I don’t know much about world news is because it can feel a big joy-stealer in the small amount of free time I have.

But Jesus was moved by compassion, and He uses compassion to move us as His hands and feet. When we actually feel someone else’s pain we’re more likely to do something about it. 

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

One of the biggest revelations for me emotionally in this whole following Jesus into less experience is that every time I say no to something that’s not a real need (even when I feel guilty about it), I’m actually opening up the door for Jesus to show me what to say yes to, and compassion is a lot easier for me when I’m not feeling overwhelmed or stressed out myself.

I know it’s not a new thing and that people all over are talking about yes and no and how to do each well. I’ll be honest with you that as I’m taking things off my plate I’ve been asking God to help me care about others in the ways He wants me to, because I feel like generosity is something I have a lot of room to grow in. It kind of blows my mind that real compassion (not just the knowledge that I should care about something but the actual caring feeling to do something about it) is something I need a lot of personal space for, and I’m really glad He showed that to me. It’s one of many things that is confirming for me that God is calling me to a slower pace and to a life that’s less about getting things done and more about being available when He calls me to move.

What about you guys? How do you feel about busyness or compassion? Does it come easier to you even when your plate is full or are you more able to feel compassion when you have less on your plate? Let’s talk about it… 

Linking up with Unforced Rhythms and Jack of  all Trades at A Harvest of Blessing and Community Brew.

Kim from praylivecreate.com

Update: the image above was incorrectly attributed via unsplash. Original image by Lizzy Gadd. Modified for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.

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  1. I can really relate to this. Sometimes I mentally kick myself for not being more compassionate and I miss the opportunities after work when I’m feeling tired and just want to sit on the bus going home. I don’t generously extend myself and blame it on living in a big city but actually it’s my own laziness and self desire for comfort.

    It’s amazing to think of how moved Jesus was when He saw people in such need even though He knew that some of those people would reject Him and shout aloud to crucify Him. We may be rejected, we may be looked at with scorn but our hearts should break for what breaks His heart. People in need, poor and lonely, those are who break God’s heart.

    Thank you for this post!


    1. Liv, I know what you mean! I seriously look forward to a seat on the train after a long day of work. One of the things that I love noticing about Jesus is how often He removed Himself from the busyness around Him (like when He would leave the city at night to sleep in the countryside). He felt others needs but He also knew how to care for Himself so that He could be emotionally available. Isn’t it amazing that even as God, He understood our human limitations? And yes, I love what you say about Jesus’ compassion for people even when they hurt Him… that’s something I can learn from today.

      Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 16:32:09 +0000 To: kimfernando@outlook.com


  2. i feel exactly the same way–avoiding looking the tragedies of the world in the eye makes it easier to keep living my comfortable life. Really considering the situation of another, allowing it to effect me… that takes effort and requires letting go of my own agenda. And I’m selfish enough to not want to do that. It’s so easy to sweep it all under the rug–thanks for pointing it out, instead.


    1. Kenzie, I’m totally in agreement. And I don’t think it’s always selfishness that makes us not want to deal with it. I think it can be just as easy to be pulled in so many directions that we don’t have time to care. One of the things God is teaching me is to say no to people who pressure me to do it all so I can say yes to what God asks instead. Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Oh wow, this is just what I’ve been thinking/writing about. My husband works for Samaritan’s Purse in Cambodia, and I just wrote about the frustrations of most people not knowing about ebola (http://www.journey-mercies.com/2014/08/when-west-forgets-rest.html). You’re right – Westerners have such major information overload, it’s hard to take in news of outbreaks and death and war. but aren’t we doing that to ourselves? we barely have the brain space to take in the information, let alone the time or financial resources to do anything about it. i love the connection you made between living less and living a life of generosity – you’ve really got my thoughts spinning now on the implications for that in my own life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whitney, I’m so glad you stopped by! Clicking over to your post now. Yes, you’re absolutely right and that’s what’s convicted me so much lately. We’re just stretched way too thin emotionally, financially, etc, when we follow all the demands of this world or even live the way “everyone else” is living. And it can become such a vicious cycle. So looking forward to reading about your experience – and wow! What amazing work your husband is doing! Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2014 02:56:13 +0000 To: kimfernando@outlook.com


  4. this sentence “And it was also in that split second that I realized that in order for us to be generous we must feel another’s pain.” really hit me! like, i guess i had never consciously thought about that before! but it’s true…. generosity comes because we can feel another’s pain, imagine what it’s like in their shoes, and want to make a difference!

    busy-ness leads to a life void of generosity. white space is a good thing! 🙂 thanks for opening my eyes to this realization!


    1. Robyn, it was the first time I consciously thought about it as well! It’s interesting the Bible has so much to say about rest, getting away, finding spiritual whitespace (as Bonnie Gray says), but we always feel like we have to keep going, going, going to be serving those around us or even just getting by. Love that God is clearly doing a movement among His people to call us to more rest and whitespace.

      Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2014 20:16:09 +0000 To: kimfernando@outlook.com


  5. Kim, I really appreciate your thoughts on all of this. “Of the many things that busyness steals from us, compassion is close to the top of the list.” That was such an eye-opening statement for me….I’ve never thought about it like that!

    A good friend of mine and I have been talking a lot about busyness and wanting to serve the Lord in a new way. I can’t wait to share this post with her!


  6. I think you’re on to something significant here. Busyness, hurrying steal away time that could be spent with a real person in need, who needs love, compassion. It’s at the busiest moments in my life that it’s easy to make excuses for not stopping to offer encouragement to someone in front of me.


  7. This is so good! It’s so true that we have to feel compassion towards any situation before we can really understand or care. I really do struggle with busyness and I feel like when I am busiest it’s very difficult to care for anyone else or to extend compassion. I just get so caught up in myself that I forget to love on others! Thank you so much for sharing this with the Community Brew! 🙂 So glad that I found your blog now- I’m excited to follow along!


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