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photo courtesy of freephotos.atguru

Friends are like an extension of our family and some much closer. We want the best for them because their lives have become so intimately entwined with ours. We share their highs and lows, we laugh and we cry, we grow and experience all phases of life together.

We find it easy to celebrate when good things happen. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, anniversaries ……… all a piece of cake.

But what do you say when someone’s world is caving in? Then what?

We use one of our God-given gifts – empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It comes from the Greek word empátheia (from em- ‘in’ + pathos ‘feeling’)

How did Jesus teach empathy?

One of the best examples I can find is his interaction with Mary and Martha after the death of their brother Lazarus:

John 11:32-36 NIV

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

In verse 33, when Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and troubled, it was a form of empathy, but with a kick. The word used is embrimáomai, which literally means to snort like an angry horse or to roar with rage. It expresses strong indignation, a deep feeling that is moved to sternly admonish. The word is only used 5 times in scripture: twice by John in chapter 11, twice by Mark, and once by Matthew. When Matthew and Mark use it, it means to give a stern warning.

So what does this tell us about how Jesus felt? He was angry at death, he was angry at disease, he was angry at the sin that had corrupted his world. He saw and felt the pain and anguish that resulted from its effects and he was moved with compassion for those who suffered from it.

We may not have the ability to bring back a physical life from the dead, but we all possess the ability to resurrect an emotionally dead person. We can hold their hand while they suffer. We can pray and offer words of encouragement. When there’s nothing more to say, we listen …. and catch the tears that fall. We store them away in our hearts and use them as a reminder of the hope we have for something better.

Now might be one of those times ……..

Mugs up! Take heart, today may be your chance to help someone through the toughest day of their lives.

All verse quotes courtesy of biblegateway.com