How Can I Be More Compassionate and Less Self-Centered?

As we study further about who God is and how an understanding of Him changes our lives, we realize that there are many obstacles to our ability to see God clearly.

Philip Yancey wrote Finding God in Unexpected Places. He writes of the tendency for religious people under the duress of contemporary crises to withdraw from the world, “to pull up the drawbridge and retreat behind a protective moat. The ‘castle’ into which Christians retreat is the church. That makes me sad because God does not limit himself to the four walls of a sanctuary.”1 He goes on in his book to describe glimpses of the divine in surprising ways and places. “As a Christian journalist, I have learned to look for traces of God. I have found those traces in unexpected places: among the chief propagandists of a formerly atheistic nation, in a leprosarium in India and an Atlanta slum and even a Chicago health club, at a meeting of Amnesty International, on the Phil Donahue show, at a weekend retreat with twenty Jews and Muslims, in the prisons of Peru and Chile, and even in the plays of Shakespeare.”2

Throughout history there has been a progression of locations for God’s presence:

Tabernacle: (desert, wilderness, Canaan)

Temple: (Jerusalem)

Jesus: “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NRSV).

The body of Christ (the community of believers): We are God’s house, “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Eph. 2:20-22, NLT).

Where true love is (regardless of belief): “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7, 8, NRSV).

When is the last time you truly noticed an act of love and compassion manifested by someone? Describe the unselfish love you saw in that situation. How was God revealed there?

“Jesus himself looked for God, not among the pious at the synagogue, but in a widow who had two pennies left to her name and in a tax collector who knew no formal prayers; he found his spiritual lessons in sparrows sold at a market, and in wheat fields and wedding banquets, and yes, even in the observations of a half-breed foreigner with five failed marriages. Jesus was a master at finding God in unexpected places.”3

Where have you noticed deep, intense desire recently—longing, passion? What was the desire for? Who was involved? How did the person go about trying to fill that longing? Where was God encountered there?

“A man who knocks on the door of a brothel is knocking for God” (G. K. Chesterton).

When is the last time you were out in nature and felt a sense of mystery and awe that caused you to feel you were in the midst of something bigger than yourself? Where does that feeling of mystery, awe, and wonder come from? What would cause you to feel a part of something bigger than you? Where is God in that experience?

“There may be signs of [God’s] existence, but they point both ways and are therefore ambiguous and so prove nothing. . . . The wonders of the universe do not convince those most conversant with the wonders, the scientists themselves” (Walker Percy, novelist).

“Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word ‘glory’ a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one” (C. S. Lewis).

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
God makes a huge dome for the sun—a superdome!
The morning sun’s a new husband
leaping from his honeymoon bed,
the daybreaking sun an athlete racing to the tape.
That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
from sunrise to sunset,
melting ice, scorching deserts,
warming hearts to faith” (Ps. 19:1-6, The Message).

When is the last time you used sacred Scripture to encounter God? How you can read in a way that facilitates an experience of divine revelation in what you read? Have you asked yourself as you read, What does this say to me about God? Better yet: What is God trying to say to me in these verses?

“ ‘You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want’ ” (John 5:39, 40, The Message).4

  1. Philip Yancey, Finding God in Unexpected Places (London:Hodder & Stoughton, 2002), p. ix.
  2. Ibid., p. 11.
  3. Ibid, pp. ix, x.
  4. Adapted with permission from the iFollow Discipleship Resource, ©North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

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