Human Cruelty and the Compassion of God

Series: The Lord and Literature 

by Grace Pike June 27, 2022

This summer, I finally decided to open a book my mom gifted me last year called Where the Crawdads Sing. Since it is one of the best-selling books of all time and has a theater debut in July, it went from the bottom of my bookshelf to the top of my summer fiction reading list.

My hesitancy in exploring the narrative sooner came from a warning I received about how heartbreaking the journey would be. Without going into detail, these cautions were not unfounded. Yet, as I read the life of marsh-dwelling protagonist Kya, coming face-to-face with the reality of human depravity filled me anew with care for those in this broken world who do not know Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:28-32 tells us this about the unrighteous:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They are filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Before the Lord saved me, stories of horrific things around the world were almost unbearable. It was hard to want to live in a world where so much evil exists.

But this passage is not just speaking to an outside world: it speaks to our state without the grace of God. This passage isn’t just calling out the person or group of people who may come to your mind when you think “evil,” “boastful,” or “ruthless.” Without God’s work, this is you. This is me. This is the culture of death that we daily exist in.

It may sound harsh, but watch how quickly the veneer of love, grace, and patience disappears when our idols are jeopardized. In writing to the early churches, James exhorts fellow believers:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:1-3).

People with good intentions (myself included) can end up defending themselves rather than listening to the pains of another. Those who claim to be passionate about truth can resort to weaponizing God’s Word to prove a point rather than guiding to living water. Even the brief haughty response given at a slight inconvenience reveals the selfishness of our nature. We don’t want to admit it, but we can be cruel.

Blessedly, one of the few things more overwhelming than human cruelty is the compassion of God.

This is important for me to remember not only as I flip through the pages of Where the Crawdads Sing, but also as I experience cruelty against me or observe it festering in the world. One of the best places to go to recall God’s compassion, even on the darkest of nights, is his Word.

God’s Word comforts those in affliction while also instructing us when we are tempted to go our own way:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).

Living in the grace of God is not a guarantee—it is a gift.

Though salvation is guaranteed secure through Jesus, we can’t assume that confession of a surrendered life means living a life submitted to the gospel—for us or anyone else. To “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” as commanded in Hebrews 12:1 means acknowledging that pursuing righteousness is a daily decision.

If you confess Christ as Lord, I implore you to keep going. Even when waves of hatred threaten to drown you, remain steadfast in Jesus. When you grow weary of doing good, cast yourself upon your never-changing God. Remember when you come face-to-face with human cruelty, you have a God who showers compassion upon you and upon this hurting world through the mercy of his Son. Recall that by the power of the Holy Spirit:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

If you have experienced the compassion of God, you can show the compassion of God.

Let us consider how we may reach out our hands to the hurting and guide them toward God’s goodness today.

How does God's Word impact our prayers?

God invites His children to talk with Him, yet our prayers often become repetitive and stale. How do we have a real conversation with God? How do we come to know Him so that we may pray for His will as our own?

In the Bible, God speaks to us as His children and gives us words for prayer—to praise Him, confess our sins, and request His help in our lives.

We’re giving away a free eBook copy of Praying the Bible, where Donald S. Whitney offers practical insight to help Christians talk to God with the words of Scripture.