To speak simply of the omniscience of God, or omnipotence, or even omnipresence would mean little if we did not know more of the character of this all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present God. If He were all those things and yet also cruel then we would be terrified of Him; His knowledge, power, and presence would be cause of dread. If He were arbitrary like Allah, or angry like the pagan deities of ancient history, then these other qualities would mean nothing for our comfort and joy. So, as we continue to contemplate the various attributes of God and how they may be used in counseling situations it is of immense value to consider God’s character of compassion. God’s compassion invites both sinners and sufferers
Compassion refers to that sympathetic concern for the sorrows and sufferings of others. It’s that burden we feel when we witness the grief of another, when we want to help alleviate someone’s pain, when we “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). This response in us comes from the God in whose image we are made. God is the source of our compassion, and He expresses it perfectly and completely.
The Bible tells us that God reveals Himself as compassionate. In one of His earliest self-revelations God calls Himself compassionate. Moses records this revelation in Exodus 33-34. Here God tells Moses that He will not go on with Israel as they cross the wilderness to enter the Promised Land. Moses pleads and God reveals himself to Moses as one who is compassionate and gracious. So, Exodus 34:6 reads:
Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (NASB)
Note that the Lord himself defines who He is to Moses and to the people of Israel. His words of choice are “compassionate” and “gracious.” God tells us that He has compassion.
This same description of our God is picked up by other authors across the cannon. The Psalmist declares:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. (Ps. 103:8)
Psalm 116 echoes this same language too:
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate (v. 5)
The Prophet Joel invites the people to repent by appealing to God’s compassion. He says:
And rend your heart and not your garments “Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. (2:13)
Jeremiah speaks of the never-failing compassion of God when he writes:
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. (Lam. 3:22)
Even the New Testament asserts that our God is “full of compassion” (James 5:11). God has revealed Himself as “compassionate” and the record and testimony of Scripture testifies to this again and again. God is compassionate.
This has massive implications for our relating to God both as sinners and sufferers. As sinners we often rebel against God, violate His commands, and disregard His love. We pursue false gods, idols, little treasures in our heart that we think will serve us better than Him. We doubt His goodness, or sovereignty, we take advantage of His grace, and we prioritize our agendas over His. We are wicked and the Bible says that God in His justice should condemn us all. But, as the passages above indicate, God is compassionate. He offers mercy and grace to us. He knows our weaknesses, infirmities, temptations, and proclivities, and while He never excuses our sins, He is “slow to anger.” This is an invitation for sinners to come to God. God invites us to Him, He has mercy on us and does not condemn us immediately for our rebellion but desires that we would all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He is compassionate even to sinners in that He delights to take their sin from them (Micah 7:19; Ps. 103:3-4).
As suffers we can also trust this God to care for us in our sorrows. God has compassion on broken and needy people. He sees our heartaches and cares about them. He delights to minister to the broken and wounded (Ps. 34:18; 147:3). God’s compassion means that in our suffering we don’t have to wonder if He cares about us. This doesn’t mean He will necessarily relieve our troubles immediately, He has his reasons, and even suffering can evidence His compassion (James 1:3-4). But God’s compassion is so great and abounding that even in darkness we can trust Him, look to Him, and find hope in Him.
Our God is compassionate. Nothing that we experience and nothing we do can separate us from the love of this God (Rom. 8:38-39). His compassion means He has sympathy for our sorrows and grace for our sins. In counseling, taking people to these truths makes a world of difference. When I know that God forgives and when I know that God cares then I can go to Him. Helping people know this characteristic of our God invites them to stop hiding and stop self-condemning. Counselors have an opportunity lift the heads of their counselees when they show them God’s great compassion.