The Compassionate Pursuit of a Holy God

When I think of compassion, I think of doing something for someone that they can’t do themselves. It’s always a beautiful scene, moving the one being shown compassion to happy tears. 

Thank you. Thank you so much, says the tired mom who's been handed free babysitting and a day at the spa. Or the out-of-work dad who receives a year’s worth of free rent. Or the recent high school graduate who finds out her employer is going to make it possible for her to go to college.

Basically, in my head, compassion looks like the show “Extreme Home Makeover,” where unforeseeable dreams come true and everyone’s handed a four-foot-wide check stating their mortgage has been paid. And it makes me cry every time. 

But that’s not how life works for most of us. For some crazy reason my husband and I are still paying our monthly mortgage, and I’m still waiting for my free day at the spa. 

Consumed with my own ideas of what compassion looks like, I can miss it when it saunters into my life in other ways, such as the compassionate pursuit of the holy God. 

According to, compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

There’s no doubt that our compassionate God desires to alleviate our suffering. However, God cannot forever alleviate our physical suffering without first alleviating our spiritual suffering. God’s first priority is our spiritual well-being, while our first priority tends to be for our physical well-being. The difference in priorities can cause us to be confused. 

While God’s compassion centers on reviving our corrupted souls, our compassion often centers on improving people’s current lives. But what’s even harder to understand is how God uses our physical suffering to bring about spiritual relief.

Out of Compassion God Allows Hard Things 

If life always went the way I wanted, I wouldn’t know God very well. I’d be content in my circumstances with no need to reach out for help. God allows hard things for our own good. Things that don’t look or feel very compassionate to us are the very essence of God’s love, as those undesirable circumstances push us towards Him. 

It’s not the easy days that increase our faith. It’s finding ourselves still intact after battling through hard ones that boosts our confidence in God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” Therefore, out of compassion God allows various trials to test and grow our faith (1 Peter 1:7)

When we’re crawling through adversity, it certainly doesn’t feel like God is being compassionate—it feels like God is being cold. I have to remind myself that God is for me, not against me. His compassionate pursuit centers on my inner godliness, not my instant gratification. 

Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Lam. 3:32) 

God refuses to withhold hardship so we will search for Him, find Him, and realize there is no greater blessing than knowing Him. 

Out of Compassion God Sometimes Says No

Want to know a secret? I don’t always ask God for what’s best. My motives can be selfish and my vision nearsighted. It’s a good thing God doesn’t always give me what I ask for, or I might be living in paradise with all the money in the world, and yet be completely miserable because I’ve replaced the God of my salvation with stuff.

Hearing a “no” from God can be hard to understand, especially when I’m asking for a good thing and His silent response is breaking my heart. God’s “no” can feel harsh and unloving, not compassionate.

But do you know what we need more than anything else? We need God. Begging God for anything other than Himself is begging God for less. When we ask for things that might hinder us from seeing God’s glory or keep us from growing in our faith or derail us from the path of holiness, praise the Lord that He says no. 

It’s the compassionate pursuit of a holy God to give us Himself, instead of everything we ask for. 

Out of Compassion God Makes Us Holy 

We think it’s getting what we want, when we want it, that will make us happy, but it’s not. Joy resides in the presence of God, not the presence of stuff. Holiness is the highway to happiness. Therefore, God’s compassionate pursuit always moves us in the direction of holiness, even when it hurts. 

This is why the apostle Paul rejoiced in his sufferings. He knew firsthand “that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom. 5:3–4). A chain reaction takes place when we allow suffering to do its work, making us more like Christ. 

When we stray, God disciplines us as a loving father, unwilling to let us forfeit the pursuit of holiness. But it isn’t fun to recognize our sin. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. Yet the forgiveness and reconciliation waiting for us on the other side of confession is evidence of God’s continued compassion. 

God loves us too much to leave us sinful and selfish. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). 

Out of Compassion God Sent the Savior

It’s easy to lose sight of the incredible kindness God’s already shown us when we’re caught up in the hustle, hardships, and hassles of life. No, we aren’t holding a cardboard check stating that our mortgage has been paid. In Christ, we’re holding something better—a certificate of redemption stating our spiritual debt has been paid. We may not be the recipients of an extreme home makeover, but we are the recipients of an extreme heart makeover. 

Unable to free ourselves from the grip of sin, Jesus stepped in to do it for us. Incapable of making ourselves holy, Jesus covers us with holiness, lending us the power to do what’s right through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We asked for none of this, but God gives it all freely. 

You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13–14)

Out of compassion Jesus has handed us much more than a day at the spa, or a mortgage-free house. He’s given us eternal life. In Christ, we have gained the opportunity to know God, love God, and be with God both now and forever. We should be gushing with thanks. Praise the Lord for His all-encompassing, never-ending, holy, and compassionate pursuit of our hearts. 

About the Author

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery is a farmer’s wife and mother of four—or as she likes to say, “President of Home Operations.” Stacey loves teaching women the Bible and along with her family makes her home in the cornfields of Indiana. For more, … read more …

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