Posted by: Dan | July 3, 2004

Empathy

I was sitting talking on the porch with an LIT and she was asking about my work and began telling me how her and her friends would volunteer at Sanctuary. She was talking about her desire to love people, her desire to help but her feeling of inadequacy,

“I meet these people, I listen to your stories and I think, 'how can I offer these people anything? How can I empathize?' I've always had it really good. I've never gone through anything bad.”

I've often struggled with feeling that way. I've asked myself the same questions, I used to think that I needed to run away, lose myself in the streets, go through every type of hell, so that then I would be able to come alongside of people who were suffering. Then I would be able to say, “I understand,” then I would be able to say, “let's get through this together.” Then I would be able to at least offer companionship, and they would not be so alone.

Of course to even feel such things shows how little we understand suffering. Say such a thing to someone who has suffered deeply and they'll look at you like you're crazy.

“You don't know what you're saying. I never want anybody to go through anything close to what I've gone through.”

And then, talking with this LIT, I realized something. It was Jesus who surrendered everything to enter into our suffering and bring us out of it. It is Jesus who can truly empathize, who can truly offer companionship and comfort. And then I realized, it is Jesus in us, Jesus in me, that the people I work with recognize. It is because I have Christ in me that I can come alongside of those who are suffering and offer them something. I always want it to be me who makes the difference, me who is significant, but really, it's Jesus in me that these people recognize, it's Jesus who makes the difference.

And that's why I can still do the work I do. That's why I can still journey with the people that I love, and that love me – without having to go through the hell that they have experienced.

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Responses

  1. Beautiful and insightful.

  2. Thank you.


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