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Compassionate God

A Lent Reflection for Thursday, March 7 by Sarah Roquemore Day


Lectionary reading for 3/6/24: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Genesis 9:8-17; Ephesians 1:3-6

Selected passage for reflection: Mark 11:15-19 


Read

Psalm 107: 1-3, 17-22 NRSVA


1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;   

for his steadfast love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,   

those he redeemed from trouble

3 and gathered in from the lands,   

from the east and from the west,   

from the north and from the south.


17 Some were sick through their sinful ways,

    and because of their iniquities endured affliction;

18 they loathed any kind of food,

    and they drew near to the gates of death.

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

    and he saved them from their distress;

20 he sent out his word and healed them,

    and delivered them from destruction.

21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

    for his wonderful works to humankind.

22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,

    and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.



Reflect

Once when I was about 8 years old, my parents brought me to a Superbowl party and left me unsupervised near the food table. At the time, one of my favorite snacks was Nacho Cheese Doritos, so, naturally, left to my own devices in close proximity to an extra large bag of said Doritos, I went to town. Over the course of four quarters, I managed to consume the whole bag, right down to the last crumb of cheese dust. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess how this story ends. I’ll spare you the more gruesome details, but suffice it to say, the wee hours of that night were spent in my mother’s lap, curled over the toilet. I can hardly stomach Nacho Cheese Doritos to this day.


As I read verses 17-22 in today’s Psalm, I see the image of a child made sick by their inability to regulate their impulses. They think they know what they want and go hard after it without realizing the thing they’re enjoying at the moment will make them sick in the end. The word “sick” here can also be translated as “fools”. How often do we, like children, make foolish and stubborn choices that undermine our spiritual, emotional, and relational health?


Fortunately, this image of a foolish child is accompanied by the image of a loving parent who steps in to save us when we’ve gone too far. God is a compassionate mother, who, hearing her daughter’s retching cries in the middle of the night, rises to her aid, graciously holding her hair and rubbing her back until she is no longer at “the gates of death.”  As soon as we cry out for help, God rises to offer us healing and compassion. 


As adults, it can be especially difficult for us to recognize and admit when our foolish choices have led to suffering. This is not to say that all suffering arises out of our choices– it is important that we also recognize that there are many painful and traumatic events and illnesses that are completely out of the realm of our control and we should not blame ourselves in those situations. However, for me, an enneagram 4 with a penchant for leaning into bad feelings, I am often guilty of exacerbating my own suffering with unhealthy habits. And when this is the case, it is often shame that holds me back from seeking help and making healthy changes. Rather than admitting that I’m sick, I sink my heels in and engage in all sorts of dubious coping strategies until I finally find my head in the spiritual toilet. 


If you, like me, recognize areas where spiritual, emotional, or even physical illness may stem from your own unhealthy patterns, I invite you to initiate the healing process by leaning into a practice of self-compassion, initiated by the compassionate image of God seen in  Psalm 107. What would change if we could look at ourselves with the same compassion God offers us? If we could see the child within us who needs help to heal and allow ourselves to receive the steadfast love of God?


Respond 

Take some time to journal about any unhealthy patterns in your life that may be impacting your emotional, spiritual, or physical health. How has your own shame about these patterns kept you from crying out for help? Imagine a God who “rises to show compassion” to his people (Isaiah 30:18). How does developing a compassionate image of God impact your ability to heal and change? Are there any changes that God’s compassion empowers you to begin making today?


Rest 

Compassionate God, 

Thank you for meeting us in our weaknesses. Help us to recognize the ways in which our sinful choices and patterns sicken our minds and spirits. May we offer ourselves the same compassion you offer us, as we cry out for your mercy to help us heal and grow. 


About the Author 


Sarah Roquemore Day is a middle school teacher, sometimes a writer, and always a daydreamer. She has recently entered her auntie era and loves doting on her precious nieces, Kellyn and Kai-Ling. Sarah lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Bob.


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1 Comment


We all have our dorito moments. This is a beautiful description of a compassionate parent.

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