. . . a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. . . . When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” (Luke 7:12-13)
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. (John 11: 33-35)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:15,16)
The woman in line at the funeral home, husband in tow, takes her hand, leans over and says quietly, “I know how you must feel.”
“No, you don’t,” the newly bereaved woman thinks to herself. “I’ve just lost my husband; you still have yours. I know you mean well, but you haven’t been there. I’ve just joined a club nobody wants to belong to; only the other members have some idea what I feel.”
The reality is that only one living being really knows how you or I feel in times of grief. His tear-filled eyes and arms open wide offer the comfort we need; the comfort that helps.
God knows how it feels to lose someone you love more than words can say. He watched as his only begotten Son died an excruciating death for the sake of others.
God is well aware of how grief feels. He feels it continually as He watches His children collide with Satan’s forces and sees the results. He goes through the pain of rejection from those to whom He has reached out in vain, because He knows only too well what their fate will be.
Jesus knows how weakness feels, how temptation feels. He knows “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41) As someone has said, “He has worn our flesh and measured its frailty.”
When we stumble, when we fall, Jesus stands ready to help us regain our footing. His aim is not to blame or condemn, but to restore. His goal is not to punish, but to protect our character and pursue our growth. We will have to suffer the natural consequences of our weaknesses, but He is able to bring good out of them, beyond what we could ask or imagine.
So it is that we can approach God’s throne with confidence in every circumstance: grief, joy, pain, thanksgiving, confusion or confession. When we are at His throne, we are in the presence of mercy. We find grace. We discover the wholeness of belonging, of being who we are and where we are, and loved just the same. We find the comfort of being completely understood — that gift the world can’t ever totally give.
A pain understood is a pain shared. There’s a unique kind of comfort in that. That’s the gift of enlightened empathy.
Empathy knows how we feel. Empathy cares about how we feel. Empathy allows us to experience grace, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as the “unmerited favor, of God, divine regenerating, inspiring, and strengthening influence . . . “.
Father, thank You that You not only empathize with my weakness, but give me the comfort and the strength to work through it with You. May I take that same empathy and offer it to others. In Jesus’ name I ask it.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)