Empathy is so precious yet is often neglected. When someone’s going through something, whether good or bad, we often struggle to be empathetic; instead, we turn our gaze inward and immediately begin focusing on ourselves. I sure hope I’m not the only one who struggles with this. When someone is having a hard time I immediately try to fix the problem, or think of how their situation isn’t as bad as it could be, or grow frustrated that they’re dealing with the same problem again, instead of just being there with them. I’m learning that people in those tender moments don’t need a list of to-do’s or a 5 step process to fix their lives, they just need a listening ear, a kind heart, a safe space, and a shoulder to cry on (whether literal or figurative).
The gospel is wrapped in empathy, there’s no doubt about it. God saw the deplorable state of humanity and instead of staying up in the lofty heights of heaven, shrouded in glory and ruling with justice, he condescended and chose to dwell with the very people who rejected him. More than just coming down and teaching people a better way, more than being a good example or teacher, he chose to sacrifice himself so that a relationship that had been severed could be restored. Think about Jesus’s ministry here on the earth. When someone was hurting, when they were at the end of their rope, when they knew they needed help, he did just that.
Empathy is something we crave to receive but often struggle to give.
Empathy occurs without judgement. There’s no room for shame when empathy is being exercised. Empathy is secure and comfortable with not having the answers. Pressure isn’t found within empathy and the only expectation is in being present. Empathy doesn’t have to have all the answers, empathy only has to be there.
Lord, your creativity in making our bodies and minds is breath-taking! You set us up to give empathy just as you have given empathy to us in the person of Jesus and the presence of your Spirit. Forgive us for not always representing you in this way. Thank you for coming to earth and experiencing life so that you can empathize with us. Help us to display this part of your character to the world around us. We want your empathy to flow through us to bring healing and hope to the hurting. Amen!