Anyone else clunky with their spiritual gifts conversation? Someone asks what your spiritual gifts are and you toss out a self-depricating joke and deflect the question? Be real, I know some of you do. Its ok, I’m recovering from that too. What if we did that in human terms? Picture this:
I hope you have a friend in your life who is a gift-giver; meaning they thoughtfully and carefully curate little acts of love wrapped up and given at their whim. Let’s say that over brunch with a side of crispy bacon, they presented you this present, beautifully and humbly wrapped at the same time, and among a big group of dear friends, announced: “This isn’t just for you, its for everyone! But I chose it specifically for you to use to bless everyone!” You opened it, eyes waiting to see what you received, and you blush as it’s unveiled, offer a polite ‘Thank You’ and promptly hide it under your bed when you dash home; you hope no one brings it up again, quietly looking into the return or exchange policy. In the words of the child prophet of our time, Stephanie Tanner, “How rude!”
The reality is, the brunch table analogy breaks down because the host would be God Himself, and He would have given gifts to each one of His dearly loved children for the purpose of building up the body of Christ, the church, and celebrating Him. So for the sake of lifting high the Gift-Giver’s name, He has given me the gift of mercy. No returns or exchanges, because ultimately this gift isn’t about me in the first place.
A helpful resource if you want to discover your own gifts is spiritualgiftstest.com, and here is how they would define the spiritual gift of mercy:
“The Greek word for the spiritual gift of mercy is Eleeo. It means to be patient and compassionate toward those who are suffering or afflicted. The concern for the physical as well as spiritual need of those who are hurting is covered by the gift of mercy. Those with this gift have great empathy for others in their trials and sufferings. They are able to come alongside people over extended periods of time and see them through their healing process. They are truly and literally the hands and feet of God to the afflicted.
The Holy Spirit gives the spiritual gift of mercy to some in the church to love and assist those who are suffering, and walk with them until The Lord allows their burden to be lifted. The gift of mercy is founded in God’s mercy towards us as sinners and is consistently expressed with measurable compassion. Those with this gift are able to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). They are sensitive to the feelings and circumstances of others and can quickly discern when someone is not doing well. They are typically good listeners and feel the need to simply “be there” for others.”
Our Biblical picture of this is the Good Samaritan who came to both the practical and emotional aid of the man beaten and left for dead. How I aspire to this level of dying to myself to love my neighbor! In all areas of spiritual gifting, it will cost something of ourselves, but only to the end of finding true joy and life. It cost the Good Samaritan his money, his time, and his heart. In Luke 10:33, the first glimpse of his gift is revealed in “he had compassion”. His heart went to the man and his actions followed.
Empathy and compassion come naturally for me, or correctly, supernaturally. There is an urge of collective suffering that’s always been in me, perhaps needing refinement and maturation over the years. As a NICU nurse I couldn’t clock out at the end of my shift emotionally for the babies and families I cared for. I sobbed in the supply closet on more than one occasion simply from the weight of suffering I felt. God has given me keen awareness in groups when one member might be struggling. Deep conversation to check heart-level vital signs is where I go with people if given the opportunity.
There are limitations to my spiritually-empowered gift of mercy – I cannot rescue souls. I cannot walk through valleys as deep as only God can with people. I make mistakes in what suffering people actually need. My human brain doesn’t see or respond perfectly to all suffering placed in my realm of relationships. Christ alone is perfect mercy. And though the Spirit empowers me and Christ is my constant example to strive toward, I will still only ever amount to human level mercy, pointing ultimately to His glory and perfect praise!
My prayer as of late, given to me by a wiser woman who is guiding me in some practical implications of growing in mercy is this:
“It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God,” Philippians 1:9-11
He gives the gifts in the first place, Spirit empowering them along the way, refining and sharpening our use of the gifts, adding His love and knowledge and excellence so that we would be more full of Him and praise would result to Him.
So tell us, dear reader, how has He gifted you? No exchanges or returns!