Empathy. It’s what you get when someone else identifies with and subsequently understands what you’re feeling or going through. It’s similar to sympathy, only deeper. Better. More comforting. There’s something that happens inside when you sit across the table from someone and they know exactly what you’re feeling because they’ve been through it before.
I was having coffee with a dear friend this past week, listening to some of her struggles. It’s not the first time we’ve chatted about these issues. Matter of fact, it’s a recurring topic…because it’s a recurring struggle. I know because I’ve been there. Our stories aren’t exactly the same, but very similar. When my son was a senior in high school it was not a walk in the park. I found myself crying, yelling, praying, doubting, feeling helpless, or hopeless—or some combination of all of those—for most of his senior year. Oh joy! And I shared my struggles with my dear friend for months on end.
Well, guess what? She’s now going through similar struggles. And even though I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, I must say that it’s comforting to know someone else can empathize with me. It’s reassuring to feel that I’m not the only one who’s struggled with teenagers. It’s consoling to know that someone else feels the burden that I’ve felt.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…parenting is not for the faint of heart.
There’s an old Christmas hymn called Come Thou Long Expected Jesus that was written in the 1700’s by the evangelist John Wesley. As best I can tell, the original piece only had two stanzas. I’m not sure of the exact story, but reportedly in the 1970’s some additional verses were added. As you may gather from the title, the song is all about the coming (or birth) of Jesus. It’s actually a beautiful hymn.
But read the words of the third verse:
Come to earth to taste our sadness
He whose glories knew no end
By his life he brings us gladness
Our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend
The first line is what gets me. “Come to earth to taste our sadness.” There it is. Empathy. Jesus, God’s only Son, came to earth and not only tasted our sadness, but He fully participated and experienced life as fully God…and fully human. He cried, yelled, prayed, doubted, felt helpless, and felt hopeless. He can relate. He’s been there. He’s done that.
The God of the universe identifies with and subsequently understands what you’re feeling or going through. And because He chose to leave the glorious splendor of heaven and walk this earth and do life with people, He gets it. He gets you!
This “long expected Jesus” is indeed our Redeemer, Shepherd, and Friend!