Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize the raised voice and the arms waving about to emphasize a point are your own and you’re horrified? I experienced one of those moments this week. A room full of people, heightened anxiety over Matt’s job loss and off I went - on a rant. The inciting event? A simple statement from someone across the room:
“I don’t know if I can help people, I haven’t gone through what they’ve gone through.”
Coming on the heels of a discussion about the difference between empathy and sympathy, and my annoyance with people in my life who’ve said recently, “You just wouldn’t understand, you’ve never gone through this,” I became a wee bit excited.
Really, we can’t help people until we’ve gone through what they’ve gone through? I’ve heard news so tragic I crawled under my bed and screamed at the top of my lungs for fifteen minutes. I’ve also encountered a situation so unbearable I dropped to my knees and scrabbled at the carpet hoping a hole would appear so I could crawl into it. Why wouldn’t I understand?
Pain, humiliation, rejection, etc. are universal concepts. We don’t need to experience the same source as someone else in order to understand them.
Isaiah 53:3- 4 says Jesus was “despised and rejected by men: a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; … Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;”
Can Jesus really identify with and carry our sorrows if He never lost a child, had his home repossessed, or suffered marriage difficulties. The scriptures say He does. We can empathize too. Although we can’t provide the eternal healing Jesus does, we can come alongside others, identify with their anguish, and reach into their lives to provide a helping hand.
We all have something to offer our fellow humans. Go for it!