The Mercy of God: The Empathy of Christ
Read Hebrews 4:11-16
“Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
When we are going through times of tragedy, those providing the most comfort are those who do not merely sympathize with us, but those who genuinely empathize with what we are going through. Sympathy is a shared feeling, usually of sorrow, pity or compassion for another person. Empathy, however, is deeper. It is the ability to put yourself in the place of another and understand someone else's feelings by identifying with them. However, even then, we have a sense that no one fully understand, for we are still individuals, with diverse personalities, and we all process events differently. Even when others have experienced similar struggles, they still do not fully understand what haunts our thoughts in the middle of the night when sleep is fleeting.
But there is one who does fully understand. Christ did more than enter our world to bring salvation from sin. When he took on our human identity, he came to share our experiences and participate in all of life’s triumphs and tragedies. He knew the sorrow of grief, the pain of rejection, the frustration of demands, the pains of hunger, the exhaustion of sleeplessness, the struggles of temptation and even the consequences of sin (not because he sinned, but because he took the consequences of our sin upon himself). However, not only did he share in our human experiences, but he also knows and understand us even more than we do ourselves. He created us, formed our personality and shaped our identity, so he understands and knows how each circumstance in life will affect us individually. Then, having shared our world, he entered into heaven, not to leave us and abandon us, but to become our advocate who truly empathizes with us. He became our high priest, the one who provides the connecting point between us and God.
When we are going through trials and struggles, we are drawn to prayer. But our prayer is not merely the hopeful longing that God may see our condition and act on our behalf. We do so with confident expectation because we know that Christ is our advocate, standing in the Father’s presence and assuring us that we can receive mercy and grace. In our weakness and sin, Christ bestows his grace (i.e. that he will not pour out his punishment that we deserve), and his mercy (that he sees our pitiful condition and responds to it). Consequently, we have the assurance that God will bring timely help to enable us to deal with the crisis we face. No matter what the circumstance we face, whether the pressure of adversity, the pain of loss, or even the conflict with sin and temptation, we can honestly and openly come before God, knowing that he will not ignore or reject us, but will genuinely empathize and respond to us.
The longer we deal with the present pressure, the more it weighs us down. It is one thing to face a week of the strain of uncertainty and apprehension, it is quite another when it turns into months. The longer we feel the pressures of social isolation and uncertainty, the more we need to rely upon God and his strength. Then we can truly rediscover rest, for we know that God fully understands what we are experiencing, and he promises to give us the strength we need to face the issues of this day.