“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.” – Hebrews 4:15 (NIV).
Do you ever wish there was someone you could talk to? Someone who would understand the challenges you face at any given moment? But maybe, as you think of all your friends and family, and perhaps even a mentor, it seems that there is no such person. Sure, there are plenty who are compassionate and wise who will listen or share an encouraging word, but there’s no one with whom you can have that no-holds-barred intimate talk that your heart desires.
Most people have felt that way at one time or another. If there was only that one person I could go to who would really understand what I was going through. It is not easy. After all, it’s my life, so how could an outsider really understand? Auggie in the movie Wonder felt that way. There is no one who has walked in his shoes. In fact, initially, he finds anything but empathy as one toxic kid in the movie mercilessly teases him whenever adults are out of earshot. Sometimes empathy can seem out of reach.
Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that we are never alone. We have Jesus Christ. We have a High Priest that we can talk to, who understands what we are going through and what we need. Jesus has empathy, not sympathy, for you because He’s been through everything you have and more. He empathizes with our situation. He knows what it is to be tempted. He understands us because He experienced what we experience and endured what we endure.
The more we experience His love and are filled by and with it, the more we will love and have compassion for those around us. The closer we get to Jesus, the more we will start to feel empathy for those around us.
But we’re not Jesus. So how can we identify with others going through situations we’ve never encountered face-to-face? It starts with active listening. It’s compassion in words: “I understand your disappointment…I understand that this loss has left you confused and scared”…”I’d like to help, is there anything I can do?” Perhaps more than anything else, empathy should motivate and empower us to love. There is a greater reason for our engagement with people. God may be deliberately placing someone in your life who need not only empathy but the love of Jesus Christ. Who knows how much difference a little bit of empathy can make in somebody’s life.
- What is your definition of empathy?
- Reflect on the ways you practice empathy. Has there been a moment recently where you have shown empathy for another person, and they for you? What was the result?