All I saw were the tattered clothes, crooked teeth, and unkempt hair.
All I heard were the murmurs, nervous laughter, and brisk replies.
All I felt was the discomfort, awkwardness, and potential danger.
Last month, I served for the first time ever at a food pantry. I’d once helped with the behind-the-scenes work at a food pantry, but I’d never been there while people actually got their food.
In short, my experience was different than I’d expected. Rather than helping people with cheery smiles and boisterous personalities, I was greeted with many deep frowns, some murmuring voices, and little gratitude.
Few of my expectations became realities. But as the people walked around, selecting food and scuffling toward the door, their appearance was probably the last thing on their minds.
Maybe the man with the tattoos lining his arms was anxious about his child’s worsening illness. Maybe the elderly lady with missing front teeth was scared about living in her car for the next few weeks. Maybe the woman who smelled like smoke thought that no one cared about her.
The countless people I encountered were hungry and homeless. They were desperate and disheartened. They were broken and needed Christ.
As I reflect on my experience at the food pantry, I have to question my reaction:
Why didn’t I feel compassion for those hurting people? Why didn’t I long to encourage them? Why didn’t I feel a twinge of anything—except a bit of impatience and discomfort?
Sure, I felt bad for the lonely mothers who had to raise their kids alone, the older couples who struggled to even walk, and the little toddlers whose parents couldn’t feed them regularly.
But I couldn’t seem to look past the stained clothes, solemn faces, and smoky smells. I could only fake a smile and silently count down the minutes until I could leave.
I don’t know why I feel this way. I don’t know why I feel so insensitive and uncompassionate towards the broken. How can I feel so unloving when He is so loving?
But You, O God, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me; for I am afflicted and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. (Psalm 109:21-22 NASB)
We are all afflicted and needy. We are all broken. None of us is exempt from hardships.
But the Lord’s lovingkindness applies to everyone.
Instead of seeing a divide between our levels of wealth and materials, the only divide we need to see is between those who are saved and those who still need to trust Christ as their Savior. Those are the people we need to reach with the gospel. Those are the people we need to relate to, encourage, and strengthen with God’s love.
I may be struggling to find my heart of compassion; but God knows where it is.
He knows exactly where to find it—in Himself. He is the love we need to show, He is the kindness we need to give, and He is the hope we need to share.
This post was originally featured on my friend Anna’s blog: Northern Hearts Alaska.