Written by Nate Wieland. Media by Kristyn Ewing.
Many of us have heard or expressed the sentiment, “I don’t need your sympathy.” The idea of someone sympathizing with us is often repugnant. The reason could be because of the definition: “Pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” When we are hurting, what use is someone’s pity? How does another person’s look of sorrow benefit us in times of trouble?
Many people who sympathize are apathetic toward other’s “misfortune.” Therefore, sympathy requires no sacrifice and puts the person giving it up on a pedestal. However, those who are suffering seek more from close family and friends: empathy. Empathy cannot be distributed from a higher position because it requires the giver to be on the same level as the afflicted. Instead of watching someone mourn, it demands that we mourn with them.
We are broken people and our relationship with a perfect God is always in the process of being redeemed. Because we are imperfect, we tend to project our views and ideas onto Him. It’s tempting to believe that God can’t empathize when people are looking down on us as we suffer. After all, if sympathizing is done from a perch looking down, then, of course, GOD, the Holy of Holies, the Highest name above all names can’t empathize with us. To empathize, one must have shared experiences. How could the Creator of the universe relate to us?
Consider the many trials Jesus, God in the flesh, faced during His time on earth. In John 11.28-37, Jesus knew that the fate of Mary’s brother was in His hands and that He had the ultimate authority over life and death. Yet, He wept when the man died. In Matthew 26.36-46, Jesus prayed in the garden the night before His own death. He described His soul as sorrowful even to the point of death and stated how fearful He was of what was to come. He was so afraid that He fell flat on His face.
We see from these accounts that Jesus experienced the full range of human grief, fear, and sorrow. He saw troubled times beyond some of our worst nightmares. Even though this truth is filled with great sorrow, there is still cause for great rejoicing. Why? Because we have a Great High Priest who, because of His trials here on earth, can empathize with us! He lowered Himself to our level and suffered as we suffer, all for the sake of being able to walk with us through our suffering! Jesus mourns as we mourn because He knows what it is to mourn! He weeps as we weep because He knows what it is to weep!
Our God is a personal God and He loves us deeply. His love for us is shown as He walks through our trials with us, not as a sympathetic observer, but as an empathetic God who shares in our pain.