May Your Heart Break

The day after the funeral is the hardest. The days following the death of someone you love are overflowing with friends and family, phone calls and text messages, meals and cards and hugs and stories. But the day after the funeral, it all stops.

I remember sitting in the living room with my grandma the day that my grandpa died. The house was filled with friends and family. The phone rang constantly. It was a flurry of activity. In the middle of it, someone said, “In a few days you will all go back to your lives and move on.” Of course, I was certain there was no way.

And then, the day after the funeral I drove home. I fed the girls dinner. I put them to bed. I cleaned the house. I crawled in bed. And I went to sleep. While there are difficult moments, times when the grief and pain feel extremely raw, my daily routines are not affected by the loss.

But for my grandma, and those of you who have lost a spouse, you can’t go back to what you were doing. Because everything you did involved that person. You ate breakfast together. You drove to the store together. You watched TV together. You cooked dinner together. You slept next to each other. Every moment of every day there is a huge hole.

But for those of us one step removed, we don’t have to feel it every minute.

There is a crisis in Syria, and over 12 million people have been forced out of their homes due to civil war, and over HALF are children. Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk for becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. But we don’t have to think about it every day. You may have seen a picture of a toddler being washed onto the shore, three-year-old Aylan Kurdi

I wept when I saw the picture and read the article. But then what happened?

I went home. I fed the girls. I got them ready for bed. I cleaned my house. I went to sleep in my comfortable, warm bed. And I woke up to a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs.

And even more recently. On Thursday. 9 people were killed in a college classroom, and the shooter was killed in a battle with police. 10 people died. 10 families lost a loved one. 10 families couldn’t sleep on Thursday night. Or Friday night or last night. 10 families will never be the same.

And our stomachs turned as we read the news. Our hearts ached. 

But then what happened? I shut off the TV. I fed the girls. I got them ready for bed. I cleaned my house. I crawled in bed and went to sleep. 

There's a story in the book of Luke about a Good Samaritan who saw a man beaten, bloody and lying on the side of the road. The man was in great pain, and the Good Samaritan had compassion on him. The word for compassion in Greek is the word, splagchnizomai. The word literally means to be moved from the bowels. This isn't just a feeling, but it's also an action. It's something you feel in your gut when you witness the pain of others, and then it compels you to do something about it!

When the Good Samaritan felt compassion for the man, he acted. He didn’t walk by, feel sorry for him, and then head home. He bandaged his wounds, cleaned them, used his own donkey to take the man to find lodging and even paid for it. He went the distance.

Compassion requires you to let down your guard, to step out of your comfort zone, and get up close and personal with people who are hurting. It's sacrificial. You sacrifice your self, and you sacrifice the warm, cozy feelings of your distorted reality. In order to have compassion, our hearts have to be broken for others.

Every time Jesus had compassion on someone, he did something. He saw a large crowd and he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14). He saw that they were hungry and he fed them (Matthew 15:32), he saw that they were lost and he taught them (Mark 6:34). In the 24 instances that this word is used in the Gospels, it results in action.

Micah 6:8 calls us to be people who respond to matters of injustice in our world.

God is sending us out not only to bring hope, but also to embody hope in our world. As Christians, our challenge is not merely to feel bad about the pain and suffering of others, but to stand up and do something about it. To walk with others through the darkest valleys of life. May your heart begin to break for the things that break the heart of God.

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18)