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Lesson 1: A Woman Needing Compassion

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“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

The Need to Be Satisfied

Some say that a woman’s greatest need is to have her heart’s desires satisfied by love, security, and significance.

The quest for satisfaction became the driving force behind women of the ‘80s and ‘90s. As women tuned into the highly mobile, high-tech society around them, they began to turn their energies to new frontiers. To excel, to succeed, even to surpass the accomplishments of their male counterparts, has been the goal of many women who have challenged men’s domain.

Now, however, as women examine who they have become, many are wondering where they really belong. It has become painfully clear that achievement and success have not delivered the payoff of personal satisfaction that women seek. In the brief reflective spaces sandwiched between their frenzied commitments, women are now realizing that external accomplishments do not satisfy their deepest inner longings. So, the search for satisfaction continues.

What many don’t realize is that each woman is created by God with a built-in spiritual need for a relationship with Him. This spiritual hunger and thirst is as real as physical hunger and thirst. The way to have it satisfied is just as real though not always obvious.

Yet, the desire to satisfy this hunger and thirst draws women toward the spiritual arena. I was that woman in 1972 when I was invited to join a small women’s Bible study group at college. There, I met Jesus in the pages of the Bible. As my relationship grew with Him, I recognized a deep sense of being satisfied. My longing to know God was being fulfilled. It still is.

Regardless of your age or stage of life, circumstances or personality, you were created with a built-in spiritual hunger that only God can satisfy. God sent His Son Jesus to live as a man and die for your sins so that you can have your deepest needs satisfied just by knowing Him. To get there, you need to know the answers to these questions, “Who is Jesus Christ, and why did He come?” You also need the answer to “How did He treat women, and can I as a woman know Him today?”

Perhaps you are the one thinking, “Why don’t I feel satisfied in my life? How can I get my deepest needs and longings satisfied?”

Today begins your journey to answer those questions. Let’s start here:

1. How have you tried to satisfy your built-in spiritual thirst? (It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.)

2. How did that work for you?

The God Who Satisfies

3. Read Psalm 107:4-9. (The book of Psalms is in the Old Testament.) The writer of this psalm (a prayer or song) describes those who are wandering, seeking something to satisfy their hunger and thirst.

  • What are the wanderers experiencing (verses 4-5)?
  • When they cry out to the Lord (verse 6), what does He do for them (verses 7 and 9)?

If our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him (as the Bible declares), a relationship with another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart.

His plan to do that included coming to earth to take on a human body and to live as a man among us. Enter Jesus. As the radical rabbi, Jesus treated women as no man had ever treated them before. His warmth, personal attention, tenderness, sound teaching, and compassion toward women were revolutionary. He openly demonstrated His love for each individual He met—both men and women—for whom He would ultimately die. A relationship with Jesus satisfies every person’s built-in spiritual thirst.

Connecting with New Testament Women

To fully appreciate Jesus’ approach to women, we need to resist our impulse to approach the Bible from our twenty-first century cultural perspective. Our understanding is more accurate if we step back in time—into the shoes of the women of the first century AD.

It was tough to be a woman living around the rim of the Mediterranean during Jesus' time. In both Greek and Roman cultures, women held a second-rate status. Their legal rights were few, and women were generally treated like property. Jewish women fared slightly better than their contemporaries in surrounding cultures.

You may have limited knowledge of the New Testament so these women may be strangers to you. When you read the gospels, you can easily think, “What’s written in it happened so long ago! What do those women have in common with me? They didn’t live in my world.” Yet, they were still women like you and I are.

As everyday women, they cooked meals, did laundry, and raised children. They had responsibilities inside and outside of their homes. They experienced hormone fluctuations and menopause. They laughed with their friends, differed with their mates, and cried when a loved one died. I bet they all found ways to use their 20,000 words per day.

At one time, they were 20-somethings, then 40-somethings, then 60-somethings and more. They wore beads, earrings, and ankle bracelets. Their hair needed to be combed and fixed, and it turned grey as they aged. No doubt, some of them, if not all, had something on their bodies that sagged!

These women also experienced fear at various times just like we do. They faced rejection from peers, sick family members, and disappointments. They faced trauma and surprise houseguests. They even had “bad” days when things didn’t go right, sometimes due to their own choices. These were everyday women, just like we are.

4. As women, what kinds of life experiences for them might have been the same as your own?

5. What kinds of deep longings did these women have that you may also experience?

Their stories—snippets of their biographies—are preserved for us to get to know them and to know their Savior who is also our Savior. Jesus is the ever-faithful Son of God whose character never changes and who acts on our behalf to satisfy every hunger and thirst that we have. One of His character qualities that is evident as He acts on our behalf is compassion. Every woman needs compassion from Jesus, whether she knows it or not.

A Woman’s Need for Compassion

"Compassion is understanding the troubles of others, coupled with an urgent desire to help…Compassion is a heart's response to a person's need combined with a helping hand that offers mercy and grace." (Carol Kent, Becoming a Woman of Influence, p. 109, 111)

Compassion is not just feeling. It is doing something to ease someone’s pain, whether it’s for this week or more. Compassion is proactive. Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious.”

6. When do you need the Lord’s compassion?

Jesus embodied God’s compassion to those He met. The gospels record many incidents of Jesus expressing compassion towards people. Let’s look at just a few of them.

7. Read Matthew 14:14. For whom did Jesus feel compassion, and what did He do?

8. Read Matthew 15:32-37. For whom did Jesus feel compassion, and what did He do?

9. Read Mark 6:34. For whom did Jesus feel compassion, and what did He do?

Let’s look at the life of one woman who certainly needed the compassion of Jesus. Since she is from Nain, we will call her ‘Nancy.’

A Little Bit of History

In the Jewish culture, great celebration occurred at the birth of a son. Providing a son gave a woman value in her husband's eyes as the son ensured that the family wealth and name would continue to the next generation. It would also be his responsibility to care for his aging parents, and especially his mother once widowed. Having a son was the hope of every Jewish woman. Jesus was well into His ministry when He met such a woman.

After healing a Roman centurion’s servant, Jesus and His disciples headed to a city called Nain, about 10 miles southeast of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. As He entered Nain, a funeral procession for a “young man” (18-30 years old) was leaving town. Funerals were often held the same day as the death because of the heat and lack of embalming. Bystanders were obligated to follow a funeral procession, with hired mourners adding to the wails of friends. The body was wrapped in cloth and carried on a stretcher. After the funeral, mourning continued for 30 days. If you have experienced the death of someone very close to you, you probably understand the widow’s state of mind when she encountered Jesus.

10. Read Luke 7:11-17. Put yourself in ‘Nancy’s’ place, what could she have been feeling and thinking when Jesus first saw her?

11. According to verse 13, when Jesus saw her, what did He feel and say to ‘Nancy’?

12. What happened next?

  • Verse 14—
  • Verse 15—

13. Put yourself in ‘Nancy’s’ place, what could she have been feeling and thinking after her son was restored to her?

14. What other lives were impacted by Jesus’ compassion on ‘Nancy’ (verses 16-17)?

Jesus could have just passed by and assumed the town would meet ‘Nancy’s’ basic needs of food and shelter. But, He didn’t.

When Jesus said not to cry, He wasn’t being mean or saying that crying is wrong. He was telling her she could stop because He was going to heal her hurt. Jesus had compassion on her and took action to relieve the suffering. Jesus represented His Father’s heart for people. And, Jesus’ encounter with ‘Nancy’ and her son ended up touching many lives.

Satisfied by His Love

When Jesus entered Nain, He saw a woman who was obviously a widow walking next to her dead son in a coffin. He knew this was her only son. He knew and understood her deep hurt and fear about what would happen to her. His heart went out to her, and He compassionately gave her son back to her. When Jesus said goodbye to ‘Nancy,’ He left a woman who no doubt felt satisfied by His love and compassion for her.

Isn’t it comforting to know that when you are in pain, God’s heart goes out to you? He feels your pain. He cares for you. He comforts you. He acts on your behalf. He is not a cold, distant, helpless Deity but is a loving, compassionate God.

Jesus personally invites you to bring your deepest longings, heartaches, and anxieties to Him today, just as men and women did in the ancient past.

Are you confident that you can go to Him and openly express your deepest needs? Often, Jesus responds by giving you a Bible verse to grasp. Or, He sends someone to alleviate your suffering through bringing a meal, visiting, calling, providing clothes, or just listening and giving counsel and prayer.

Christians often do not know what to say to someone who is grieving, or they say things that hurt more than help (for example, “You can have another child” or “She’s in a better place”). One of the nicest things someone wrote to me in a card after my father died several years ago was this, “Knowing you, I look forward to meeting your dad in Heaven one day.” I cherish that card.

15. What hurts do you have today? Talk to Jesus and tell Him about your hurts, knowing He has compassion for you.

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Compassion

To fully appreciate Jesus’ approach to women, we need to step back in time—into the shoes of the women of the first century AD.

It was tough to be a woman living around the rim of the Mediterranean during Jesus' time. In both Greek and Roman cultures, women held a second-rate status with few legal rights.

Jewish women fared better than their Roman contemporaries. Married women with children held a place of honor as wife and mother, but even that position was tied to her ability to produce male children. In an agricultural society, fathers needed sons (lots of them) to help them work the land. At the birth of a son, all celebrated. Not so much at the birth of a daughter.

Jesus—the one who wants us

Jesus Christ entered into the midst of this culture with a radically different value system from that of His culture in the way He regarded women. His compassion for women elevated their position in society and gave them equal relationship with Him. Reading through the gospels, you can see that…

  • He spoke to women publicly when a rabbi wouldn't speak publicly to his wife.
  • He let them travel with Him during His public ministry and support Him with their own money.
  • He taught women openly and continually when the rabbis didn’t consider them able to be educated.
  • He defended them when they were criticized.
  • He was sensitive and compassionate toward women and healed their loved ones.
  • He made them the first witnesses to His resurrection when women were considered to be unreliable as witnesses.

Jesus never spoke condescendingly to women, made derogatory jokes about women, or humiliated women. And women who knew Him loved Him, wanting to follow and serve Him!

Jesus treated women as no man had ever treated them before. His warmth, personal attention, tenderness, sound teaching, and compassion toward women were revolutionary. And why shouldn’t He be compassionate toward women? Jesus is fully God, and He created us!

Jesus—the one who understands us

He was there in the beginning when God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26).

As Creator, He designed us with a mind to know God, emotions to love God, and a will to obey God. Our female minds need to be filled with the knowledge of Him so that our hearts may respond with great love for Him and so that our wills can choose to obey Him.

Jesus knows us backwards and forwards—our emotional nature, our need for security and significance, and even our hormones! He understands our need to nurture and to be loved—both from those humans closest to us and from our Creator God. And even though His culture neglected to give women the worth they deserved, He could do no less than show that He loves men and women equally—for whom He would ultimately die.

Here’s a key truth I want you to grasp. A relationship with Jesus satisfies every spiritual need that you and I have. Every one of them. You don't need to go anywhere else to get those deep needs satisfied.

Jesus—the one who meets our needs

The writer of Psalm 103 lists benefits that you may receive from God as He meets your needs. Let’s look at them.

“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:2-5)

Do you need forgiveness? Jesus does that. Do you need healing and hope for dire circumstances? Jesus does that. Are you in bondage to something? Jesus frees you from bondage. Do you need assurance that you are loved? Jesus crowns you with His love and compassion. To be crowned with compassion means to be surrounded with it so that you have a sense of God’s favor and protection. The widow had that. You can, too.

Our God promises to satisfy your heart’s desires with good things. You will be so satisfied that you will feel renewed and released to soar like an eagle. Have you watched an eagle soar on an updraft of air? You and I can soar as our God lifts us up from the pit where our souls are so hungry and thirsty, and He fills us with everything we need to feel satisfied. Satisfied by His love.

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. A relationship with another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart senses God’s favor and compassion. Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love.

16. As you reflect on Psalm 103:2-5 (see above), where in your life might you need Jesus to “satisfy your desires with good things?”

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 1. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 2. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 3. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 4. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

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