Whether we’re experiencing disappointment, frustration, fear, anger, or not knowing what to do with the pain and suffering we see and hear, God invites us to bring everything to God as an act of worship. It’s crucial to name the reality of all that is going on and to acknowledge the emotions that we may be trying to hold at bay; to express our fears, worries and anxieties, as well as our hopes, dreams, and questions to God.
God’s loving-kindness or compassion (Hesed in Hebrew) is an essential part of God’s character. Not easily translated into English, hesed is used to describe God’s tender consideration, generosity, mercy, love, grace, and goodness, God’s covenant of faithfulness.
The gospel message of Jesus is rooted in God’s compassion and loving-kindness or God’s heart for all of humanity.
God’s compassion for all of us is an unearned gift—a grace-filled expression of God’s love for us and receiving the Lord’s compassion helps us to “sit in the dark with others” and to be more loving. But we often find it difficult to receive.
Recently, I was struck by a poignant story that singer and songwriter Michael Card shared. Let me put it in my own words: Michael was in the grocery store and had just a few items in his arms. A woman with an overflowing cart invited him to go on ahead of her in line. He told her, “No thanks. My mother taught me to always wait patiently, to wait my turn in line,” and “my mother taught be to be a gentleman and to always let a woman go in front of me.” The woman tried again, emphasizing the fact that he had only a few items, while she had a cart full. Again, he refused her offer. She turned and looked at him–and in my imagination, she lovingly touched him on the arm–and then asked, “Why won’t you let me be kind to you?”
I believe that is often the question that God asks us. The truth is, we allow our own shame, guilt, or feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness to overshadow the fact that we are God’s Beloved children. God delights in us, sings over us, and desires us to come with all our thoughts and feelings. God wants to be kind to us- to lavish loving-kindness and compassion on us. God simply wants to love on us and spend time with us.
Christian writer and TV producer Lynette Kittle suggests, “When God sheds His kindness on us, it melts the hardest hearts, heals and restores the deepest brokenness, and makes anew the most shattered souls.”
God’s loving-kindness, then, goes far beyond the requirements of duty or what we “should do” as Christians. Hesed is not merely an emotion or feeling, but it involves practical action on behalf of someone who is in need. It comes from God’s heart and changes our hearts. The Holy Spirit aligns our hearts to God’s, inspiring us to be merciful as Christ is merciful–beginning with ourselves.