We are so frail. As humans, our hearts are only able to handle so much emotion, so much feeling. In our individual lives, we may have a dear friend or family member who is dying from cancer. We hurt with them. When they cry, we cry. But, if we hear of a stranger who is dying of cancer, we care, but we do not cry. Why is that? I think it is because God gave us a limited capacity to feel. As weak humans, we cannot take on the pain and hurt of this world. We are simply not able to carry the heartaches of many. We can only handle intense pain and hurt in small portions. The things in our own lives can become so overwhelming that we can not even see past our own problems to feel the pain of others. It feels like all we can do at times is just make it from one hour to the next because this life is hard and difficult.
But God, unlike us, has no limit to the hurt and pain that moves Him. Unlike us, He DOES cry for the pain of a stranger, because to Him, there are no strangers. He made each person, crafting them cell by cell in the womb, fearfully and wonderfully. He knows them intimately. He knows their thoughts before they speak. He knows when they get up and when they sit down. His eyes move to and fro across the earth and in doing so, He sees each and every precious person. Each one matters to Him. None are worthless. None are so evil He will not show compassion.
The Lord has been nudging me and nudging me with 5 little words. “He felt compassion for them.“ (see Matthew 9:36) These 5 words keep repeating in my thoughts. “He felt compassion for THEM.”
When I see a crowd of people, I don’t feel compassion. I don’t know them. I have no connection with them. They are just a large group of people. But, Jesus saw “multitudes” and felt compassion for them. Did you know that a word didn’t exist in Greek or Hebrew that expressed what the disciples were trying to convey regarding Jesus’ response to the multitudes? So, they had to create one. They created a word for “compassion.” It was a total-body response, full of heart and feeling, bringing in the pain and hurt of the multitudes. It was not a human response, as we could not feel at that intense level. But Jesus was God and man. He had the capacity to love, far beyond our capacity, and to care for these hundreds, if not thousands, of precious people. Matthew 9:36 says WHY He felt compassion. It says these people were, “distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.” The Bible says Jesus came to save the sick and the lost. He LOVES the sick and the lost, the distressed and downcast. Do we? Do WE love them?
A few weeks ago, I could not fall asleep. As I often do before I drift off, I started praying. I remembered a news broadcast about ISIS and the persecuted Coptic Christians who were being raped, tortured, and beheaded in the Middle East because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. So, I began praying for them…that they would be strong and stand firm under persecution. But, quickly, the Lord moved me. In my heart, I heard Him say, “No.” No? He continued, “Pray for the women and children of ISIS.” Women and children? I didn’t know any women and children. Again, He said, “Pray for the families of ISIS.” Families of ISIS? There are families in ISIS? So, I prayed for people I didn’t know existed. I prayed for the women and children and the families of ISIS. And as I prayed, I began to cry…for strangers.
I believe that night, the Lord blessed me with the ability to feel just a portion of the compassion He feels toward the women and children and families of ISIS. Perhaps He led with “women and children” on my account, because He knew it would be easier for me to pray for people with whom I could relate. Perhaps He then moved my thoughts to “families,” because I have positive thoughts about families and care about them in general. I don’t know. But, I do know that I cried. I felt the pain and the hurt of His precious women and children and of His families. Then, He continued. “Do not pray for the living, for they are already Mine. They go from life to life. (Speaking of the persecuted Christians) Pray for those who are dying (ISIS), who step from death to death, who do wickedness and evil, who use their power for evil. Pray for them. Pray for their salvation, that they would know Me, that I will be their God. Pray they repent of their wicked deeds as they are shown love by My children. Some who come to Me will be my most loyal bond servants. Pray for them.”
And so I prayed. Over the next few days, I felt a heavy burden to share what God told me with other praying Christians. I wrote my Pastor and told my close friends. I posted it on Facebook in hope that others would also be moved to pray. And, consistently, the tears for ISIS would well up in my eyes each time I would stop to pray. Yet, it is difficult, as a human, to pray for people who are committing such vile sin. Just their wicked deeds alone cause me to want to look away and not care about them. Yet, Jesus sees these people and is moved with compassion. As a Holy God, He is more aware than I am of their demonic, dark practices. He is not fooled by their religious works or veils of demonic worship. He is clear that they are “distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.” He is deeply grieved by their sin, at depths we cannot comprehend. He withholds His wrath from destroying them in the blink of His eye because He, “feels compassion for them.” He is both Holy and Just. He sees all and knows their thoughts. And yet, the God of the Universe has asked us, His Beloved, to pray for their salvation. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing? It is honestly more than my own mind can grasp. I believe, when I pray for them, that He has been allowing me to feel just the most microscopic portion of both His grief over their sin as well as His compassion for them. It makes me realize the vast distance between my ability to love and God’s enormous, infinite, eternal ability. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is God. We are not. We only get to choose to follow Him in loving obedience or turn away.
So, I pray you too, will ask the Lord Jesus to give you the ability to not turn away, but to look at the multitudes and feel compassion, to understand that they are distressed and downcast and without a Shepherd (Jesus). Can you imagine what the leaders of ISIS could do with the money and power and connections they have, if indwelt by the power of the Holy Spirit? What could they accomplish, if they were passionately indebted to Jesus Christ and willing to go to death in order to obey Him because of His great mercy and grace?
That night I laid in bed awake, the Lord also gave me a vision. My perspective was as if I was Jonah, sitting up on a hill, looking down over the wicked city of Ninevah. God told me, “ISIS is like the city of Ninevah.” So, I re-read the book of Jonah. And there it was…Then the Lord said, “Should I not have compassion on Ninevah, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
Jonah had avoided “crying out to the people of Ninevah” because Jonah, “knew that God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one Who relents concerning calamity.” We too can avoid God’s call to pray for ISIS. But, if we are WILLING TO PRAY and LET GOD BE GOD, both Holy and Just, perhaps as it says in chapter 3 verse 5 in the book of Jonah, “Then the people of ISIS believed in God and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest of these (the leaders…the fathers) to the least of them (the women and children).”
Please, I beg you, who profess to know Christ, who pray diligently to the God of the Harvest, please join with me in this call to obedience and pray for the “woman and children and families of ISIS.” Pray they will be brought to godly sorrow. Pray they will fall on their faces, even in the moment of beheading and raping, in humble repentance. Pray the Lord will continue to extend compassion and withhold calamity toward the multitudes, until every person has repented and believed in the only One True God, Jesus Christ our Savior. For it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.