Empathy Is Important For Christians

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The one thing that I am learning is that as Christians we need empathy.  Why?  The reason is simple, so we can share in the suffering and pain of our friends and fellow Christians.

I have found in my life that the Lord often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad to our deepest calling.  It is because of the hardships the Lord has allowed in my life, I’m able to feel more than sympathy and give my friends the gift of empathy. It’s a hard-won, precious gift.

The definition of empathy according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the “feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s place when you have no point of reference. But as God allows certain experiences in our lives, we don’t have to imagine empathy because we feel it automatically; it is a gift we can give a hurting person.

My second child Casey passed away from congenital heart disease.  The pain of losing my son is something I carry with me always. I know what it is to live with pain — emotional and physical. It is from that hardship (among others), I am able to draw from a deep well of empathy.

I was talking with a new friend the other day, and she started sharing how she lost a daughter a few years ago. The hurt she felt was still so raw that she started crying. Tears came to my eyes as I shared that I knew exactly how she felt, because I had gone through the same thing. I explained my feelings of loss, how there will always be a hole in my life where Casey should be no matter how much time has passed. How I often think of how old he would be now and how the pain deepens on important days like his birthday, when he would have graduated from high school etc.. Yet I know my son is with the Lord, and it is only sad for those of us left behind. My friend nodded through her tears and said no one ever understands how she feels. Empathy is a bridge of understanding; through my own loss I could share in hers.

The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  We are taught as Christians to share our friends emotional experiences. I am drawn to the action words of this statement. It doesn’t say, “Feel bad for those who are mourning.” It says we need to literally cry with them. Have the same emotion they are having — with a passion — one that brings forth tears. This is a powerful teaching Paul is trying to get across to the church in Rome and ultimately to all Christians. We are all called to show grace and love to hurting people, even when we can only guess at how they feel, but the true depth of empathy is achieved through experience.

Christ was our ultimate example of empathy. He literally put himself in our place when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. So when God allows us to go through a hardship, we should consider it a privilege to suffer as our Lord Jesus suffered and use our experience to bless others.

It takes a brave person to pray for empathy, braver than me, but God allows experiences in my life that “teach” me this gift. Trials in our lives have many purposes; it took a long time of walking with the Lord and studying His Word for me to discover the lessons hidden in my own hardships and sufferings. They are often for our growth: to teach us reliance on God, to draw us back or closer to our Savior, or to give us empathy for our neighbor.

As Christians, we have a higher calling. We have been bought at a price and are no longer our own, but humble servants to our Heavenly Father. The greatest commandments are to love our Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls, and to love others as ourselves. In a world rampant with selfishness, vanity, bullying and greed, God offers us a better way. We are after all His hands and feet, and what better way to represent our Lord and serve others than with the gift of empathy?

Word Of God

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I remember being a new Christian and wondering “How can Jesus and the Bible both be the Word of God?”  As my walk with the Lord grew I began to realize some really important truths:

That the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Jesus showed us a link between the written Word of God and Himself, in that He is the subject of the written Word, it is His biography: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

I learned that the phrase “word of God” means more than the printed words on a page. God is a communicator and has been speaking to us since the beginning. He speaks through His creation (Psalm 19:1), through ancient prophets (Hosea 12:10; Hebrews 1:1), through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Acts 16:6), through Scripture (Hebrews 4:12), and through the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:9). We can learn to know God better by seeking to hear Him ( and really listen) in every way that He speaks.  Isn’t that good news!   All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

(Deuteronomy 4:29 NKJV) “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

(Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. {12} Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. {13} And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Walk Humbly

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God’s Word says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

To “Walk humbly” is a heart’s attitude toward God.   God’s people depend on Him rather than their own abilities.  Instead of taking pride in what we bring to God, we humbly recognize that no amount of personal sacrifice can replace a heart committed to justice and love. The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly).

Have you ever thought about this? Doing justice is having empathy and concern for those who are left out, unwanted, abused, and oppressed. Loving kindness is being considerate, compassionate, thoughtful, and actively working and looking for the good of others. Walking humbly with God is seeing God and yourself from the right perspective, being thankful for His grace.

Today, when it seems that religious faith is seen by the world as negative and even bigoted, I hope you will consider God’s Word. Only one person in all of history has lived up to this standard, and that was Jesus Christ. He alone was just and kind and walked with His Father, God. He can help you live out life today as a demonstration of what true faith is. Why not try it?  We are sometimes the only Jesus people see.

Love More Judge Less

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As Christians, we need to love more and Judge less, allow the Holy Spirit to change a person. As this scripture shows us Peter expects our love to be a certain kind of love – an earnest love. The fact that Peter has to use an adverb after his command to love shows us there are different intensities of love. If we have to be told to love earnestly, it must be possible to love non-earnestly. Earnest means serious, sincere or deep. So Peter wants us to take our responsibility to love seriously, not flippantly and not judgmentally. He wants us to be sincere, not manipulative. And he wants our love to be deep and intense, not shallow and hollow.

How important is earnest love? So important that Peter says we should be loving one another earnestly – above all. More important than anything else in this world is our love for one another. Naturally we think of our obligation to love God as more important than our love for one another, and that’s understandable. However, if we love God, we will love one another. They go hand in hand, because the Spirit that puts the love for God in our hearts also puts a love for one another in our hearts.

As Christians, sometimes I feel we are alienating people, people need truth and love. One without the other leads to a warped Gospel. The truth spoken without love is harsh, hurtful and causes people to raise their walls, close their ears, and walk away. Love spoken without truth easily turns into a prosperity gospel, or an “all roads lead to heaven” approach. Our default is to lead with truth, but too often we forget to follow up with love. Jesus gave us many great examples of how he lead with love and followed up with truth – the adulteress woman, the Samaritan woman, consorting with tax collectors, etc. Mark 2 tells us that Jesus dined with thieves and other disreputable sinners. He knew these people needed the Truth, and he knew that what they were doing was wrong. But he also knew that they were looked down upon and scorned by the world already. They heard every single day how they were not good enough. Jesus knew that if he was going to make a difference, he should show them how much he cared and gain their trust and respect. Then the truth he followed up with would hold weight in their lives…We need to offer people hope.  Love first allow Jesus to do the rest.

The Lord Will Rescue Us

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The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials. 2 Peter 2:9
We all face trials of many kinds. No one is spared from the storms of life. Some of these trials seem unending, it’s as if there is a huge mountain in your way and you are trapped on all sides, unable to move even an inch. But remember we serve a God whose hand made the heaven and the earth and nothing is too hard for Him.
– He is mighty to save
– No mountain is bigger than Him
– God knows when and how to deliver you.
We always want to know HOW God will do it. Let us leave the questions to Him and let’s trust Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help us through the trials and tribulations we are experiencing in our lives. Sometimes we feel alienated and alone, and we faithfully ask for your help. Guide us Lord through these storms of life, and help us to always remember that you alone are the way, the truth and the light. Stay with us, Strengthen us Lord, You have promised to keep us in perfect peace when our mind and heart are fixed upon You.  Help us to wholeheartedly seek You and rely on Your Holy Word so that we will experience perfect peace.  It is in this spiritual attitude that we will fully trust You to work out the problems that greatly concern us. You have overcome the world and You will also help us to overcome our troubles.  Amen.

A Year Of Favor – Happy New Year

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The New Year is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God. Now I’ve met a few self-made men and women and so have you, but so often these people seem proud, self-centered and driven. There is another way: beginning to trust in God’s help. One secret from the Apostle Paul: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength,” he said. (Phil 4:13, NIV) And God’s strength saw him through pain, joy, and accomplishment.

By the gentle touch
of His grace you will find
happiness on your path
His love gives us confidence
to embrace a great new year

 

God Uses The Weak

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I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of women who have suffered childhood sexual abuse yesterday. I almost canceled, because I had a huge setback in my recovery as a survivor this week. It was a setback that almost made me stop and retreat, it was something that on the surface should have been no big deal, but left me deeply wounded and hurt.  It left me doubting my gifts and my ability for God to use me. No one ever talks about the little things, the not so obvious things that we as survivors of childhood sexual abuse have to manage privately. …The imprint of childhood trauma shows up in our lives in the smallest ways. In what we see, in what we hear or what we smell. … It’s all those things that trigger us day in and day out when we least expect it.   Sometimes, it’s what people say that tear us down, like telling us we are acting like a victim or get over it and move on. These little things can make us retreat and shut down. Every story deserves to be told and every voice deserves to be heard. We need to encourage survivors and victims to speak out and talk about it. Don’t be the cause as to why they remain silent.

The Lord in His goodness showed me that He uses the weary, feeble, powerless… Sometimes when we feel physically or spiritually weak, we’re tempted to take a “time-out,” thinking that God will use us again when we are stronger. In Judges 6, we’re introduced to Gideon who was taking a “time-out.” It was wartime, and Gideon was hiding when an angel of the Lord appeared to tell him that he would be the one to save Israel. Imagine Gideon’s astonishment: “How can I save Israel? Lord, I come from a nobody family, and I’m the lowest nobody in my family. And You’re going to use me?”

After God enlisted the nobody Gideon, He got a nobody army. Then God took those nobodies and won the battle! God takes us in our weak state and uses us so He alone can be glorified. Thank you, Lord.

Why does God delight in choosing the weak:  The first reason is found in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 29: “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” When we get to heaven, not one of us will be able to say we got there on our own merit. We’re saved simply by the grace of God. The second reason is found in verse 31, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” If we operate in our own strength and not God’s, we risk taking the glory and credit for ourselves. Scripture tells us that we must be weak and low enough in order for God to use us.

God wants to take us down to the very depths of ourselves to teach us that if there is any power, it is the power that is in God, and not in us. God doesn’t need to make us into performers or superstars in order to use us. Instead, He’s looking for men and women who have hearts that say, “Lord, I’m a nobody. I’m nothing without You. Will You use me?” When God finds such a heart, something extraordinary happens — that nobody is promoted to the ranks of God’s nobility.

Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that God cannot use you because you are “flawed”, weak, or seemingly inconsequential. Like I almost did! No, instead, remember that He uses the ordinary, often broken, people…to do extraordinary things. Our God is not looking at your wealth, your social status or your education — He’s looking at your heart! If your heart is willing and your life is available, then He is more than able to perform miraculous work through you for His Kingdom’s sake. With so much work to be done, don’t allow the enemy to stifle or steal the Lord’s vision for your life –- He has a plan to use you to confound the wise of this world, and to bring to naught the things th