I’m an up-and-at-em, carpe diem kinda guy. Nothing gets me down for very long—I’m resilient and self-motivated. So I used to have a hard time relating to people who weren’t wired the same way. That is until I went through a time in my life where getting up-and-at-em was one of the hardest things I had to do each day.
In the midst of this dark night, I would ask God, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?” But I heard the Holy Spirit gently but unmistakably remind me, “This isn’t about you!”
The dictionary says that empathy is nearly a transliterated word from the Greek word empatheia. It means to be in suffering, but the emphasis is more on imaginative empathy. Something like, “If I was them and I was in that situation, I bet it might feel like this.”
In the New Testament, a different Greek word is translated sympathy, which is also a transliterated word from the Greek sympatheō. This word means to enter into another’s suffering, but the emphasis is on experiential empathy. In other words, I don’t have to imagine how you might feel, but I know how you feel because I’ve gone through the same thing myself.
Just as the Holy Spirit taught me this lesson, let me say the same thing to you: the dark night you are going through isn’t about you. It’s about learning empathy SO THAT you can help others persevere all the way to the end!
Think about the dark night Jesus went through just before His crucifixion. He might have asked His Father, “Why is this happening to Me? What did I do wrong?” But He knew why He was going through this night: it was to prepare Him to be the perfect empathetic High Priest for all of us (check out these verses in Hebrews).
When we invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we become a part of His Body (1 Corinthians 12:13, 26).
Dr. Paul Brand was a renowned hand surgeon and missionary who worked with leprosy patients in India for years. He learned that leprosy doesn’t mangle a person’s foot or hand, but their lack of ability to feel pain does. He wrote, “A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. … The body protects poorly what it does not feel.”
Sometimes we have to go through the painful, dark nights so that we can learn to feel others’ pain so that we can learn empathy.
Through those nights we can learn to hear what others aren’t saying, and feel what others aren’t expressing. We don’t have to ask, “Can I help?” but rather, “I’m here to help because I know what you’re going through.”
You cannot truly empathize until you go through your own dark night. I can be thankful IN the night because God is growing my empathy so that I can help others!
If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series, you can check out the full list by clicking here.
Where is God in our trials? When we call, Jesus runs to our cry. He is able to help us because He knows exactly what our cries sound like. Aren’t you glad He does?!
While we are in these difficult times, you might find yourself asking a question I have asked, “Okay, God, I believe You are doing something, but what exactly are You doing?”
I can’t tell you specifically what God is doing in your life, because your story is unique and special. But I can tell you that during the hard, painful chapters of our lives, God is accomplishing at least five things in all of us.
We will learn lessons in these fiery trials that we couldn’t possibly learn any other way.
One dictionary defines empathy as “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.” It’s only because of our trials that we no longer have to imagine what someone else is feeling, but instead we know exactly what they’re feeling and how we can help.
It’s been said that patience is the “mother of all other virtues.” Paul said that “these troubles produce patience” (Romans 5:3). As God grows your patience, He will also help you to grow all of the other Christlike virtues.
Paul went on to add that not only does trouble produce patience, but “patience produces character” (Romans 5:4). During the times of difficulty and uncertainty, we become more aware of deficiencies in our character.
Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s well-founded believing!
I want to circle back to that word refining because I think that best sums up what God is doing in our painful times. Romans 8 tells us—The Spirit Himself thus testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God. And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ—sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:15-18)
So where’s God in this time of fire? He is overseeing our trial as a Perfect Refiner. Do you know how the silversmith knows he has purified the impurities from the silver ore? The silver is pure when he can see his own reflection in the silver!
In the heat of your trial, God is close to you. He knows the perfect temperature and the precise time that it will take to allow His face to be seen in you!
Sometimes you will see what God is doing through your furnace time, sometimes you won’t. But don’t ever bail out! God IS working! He is giving you a new perspective, a deeper empathy, more patience, an unshakable hope, and most of all—He is removing the impurities that will allow His face to be seen more clearly in you!
Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn where God is in our darkest times. And if you didn’t catch the previous messages in this series, please check out The God That Runs To You and How Long Will This Last?
Even the apostle James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). Wait, trials are “an opportunity for great joy”? How can that be?!
→ Trials teach us lessons that we can learn in no other way! ←
How much more mature, and wise, and empathetic would we become if instead of trying to get out of the trials that come our way, we would instead see what we could get out of that trial!
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:3-5)
So the next time a trial comes your way, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what lessons you can learn by going through the trial.
Dr. Les Parrott dives into the loving life of Jesus and takes us with him to discover the five was Jesus loved. Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy some of the quotes I especially liked.
“The great hindrance to true enjoyment is our willingness to settle for pitiful pleasures.”
“What keeps us from being mindful? I can answer this question with one word: agendas. … Every one of us has the capacity to set aside our self-interest, temporarily. We have the ability at any time to press the pause button on what we want. … That’s the moment we become mindful.”
“Loving like Jesus is not efficient. It takes time away from our own agenda-driven pace.”
“Jesus was shockingly accessible to anyone who felt undesirable or unwanted—lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors, the poor and persecuted, pagans and sinners. He wasn’t like other ‘holy men’ in Judea. His fellow rabbis operated on the principles of exclusion and isolation.”
“If you want to love like Jesus, you can’t limit your love to people who deserve it.”
“God is happy to give unconditional acceptance and unmerited grace to all who will receive it.”
“We can’t give grace to others when we are aren’t receiving it ourselves. When we’re busy earning acceptance from God, we start to think everyone else should earn it too. Judgmentalism creeps in. Self-righteousness appears. … When we aren’t cognizant of God’s unconditional acceptance in our own lives, we can’t give it to others.”
“If you want to love like Jesus, you can’t shy away from what you know is right and true. You can’t remain silent just to go unnoticed. Loving like Jesus is not for the chickenhearted. It requires a fierce commitment to being authentic. It requires a bold commitment to being a truth-teller. … No one accused Jesus of being a pushover—or winsome.”
“Self-giving is selfishness in reverse. It is not concerned with benefits, and it expects nothing in return. … It comes down to motive. You can be a giver and still expect something in return. … True self-giving is offering the best of who you are to others, and it comes with no strings attached.”
“The long and short of it is that we love like Jesus when we allow Jesus to love through us. It’s not about our effort. We are not trying to imitate Jesus. It’s an inside job. It’s about being a channel for His love.”
“Loving like Jesus isn’t achieved as much as it is received.”
“The word intuition comes from the Latin word intueri, which is roughly translated as meaning ‘to contemplate.’ You see, our intuition stems from what we are considering, what we are sensitive to or attuned to do. … So, if you want to hear from God, you’ve got to slow down enough to clear your head and be attuned to His Spirit. That’s when the sacred gift of God’s whisper is heard—when you become accustomed to His voice.”
I’ll be sharing more quotes from Love Like That soon, so stay tuned! Update—new quotes are posted here.
Ann Voskamp speaks lovingly to the hurting and broken. She never condemns them for their brokenness, nor does she encourage them to stay in their difficult place. Instead, Ann brings a new perspective to the path of healing; a path that allows our brokenness to become our givenness to other broken and hurting people. This is The Way Of Abundance. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here.
“Go fall in love with grace and mercy and the only One who has ever loved you to death—and back to the realest, abundant life. Because the world is begging us all to get out of bed and live given, get out of bed and sacrifice for someone hurting, for someone different, for someone forgotten or marginalized, to hold the hand of someone who doesn’t look like a us, to lean in and listen to someone angry and grieving and doubting the likes of us, to give a bit of ourselves to those who feel like they aren’t given much real space at the table.”
“The real Jesus turns our questions of why—why this brokenness, why this darkness?—and says, ‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.’ ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’ [John 9:3]. There’s brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light to be lavishly splashed across the darkness. There’s brokenness that carves windows straight into our souls. Brokenness cracks open a soul so the power of God can crack the darkness in the world.”
“When you aren’t afraid of being afraid, you transform fear into friend. … Feelings can accompany you, but they don’t get to control you. Feelings get to inform you, but they don’t get to form you. Feelings get to keep you company, but they don’t get to keep you in bondage. Only God keeps you.”
“We are always lost until our heart makes its home inside of someone else. Our lives are unfulfilling if we only let our hearts fill us instead of filling other people’s broken places. The art of living is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made into love to give. Fulfilling lives happen when we give our hearts to fill other people’s empty spaces.”
“There are really only two choices when begging temptation looks you square in your twitching eye: there is either the pain of self-denial, or the pain of self-destruction. … They’ll tell you there’s no such thing called temptation anymore, only repressed self-limitation. They’ll tell you temptation isn’t an issue for the sophisticated. And all I want to say: just don’t say you’re a follower of Christ if you’re actually following your own heart.”
“Shame dies when stories are told in safe places. … Shame gets unspeakable power only if it’s unspeakable.”
“The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go.”
“When you feel basically respectable, you want religion. And when you know you feel the brokenness of rejection, you want the gospel. In religion, it’s the ‘respectable’ who search for a God to impress. But in the Gospel, it’s God who searches for the brokenhearted rejected to save.”
“Never fear the moments you imagine will freeze you: unexpected blasts of cold can be what draws you nearer to the flame of His love.”
“The body of Christ must recapture its vision as the only collective in the world that exists for its nonmembers. … We are a community that will not dish out condemnation but courage, that will lean in and listen long and love large.”
“You love as much as you are willing to be inconvenienced. … The brokenness of people is never truly an intrusion. Loving the broken people when it is inconvenient is the way to have fuller inclusion in the life of Christ.”
In How To Listen So People Will Talk you will learn some invaluable skills for taking your relationships and your leadership deeper. Becky Harling has given us an amazing resource! Check out my full book review by clicking here.
“Honestly, it’s impossible to be a good listener without developing a humble spirit. Think about it. When you’re listening and fully engaged, you allow the other person to have all the attention. Listening forces you to lay aside your agenda. It challenges you to let go of your need to share your opinions, theories, and assumptions in favor of listening to another’s feelings, thoughts, and sentiments. That decision can only come from a heart of humility.”
“Resist the urge to dive in with your own story. … Whenever you dive in with your own story, you are stealing the microphone from the person who is telling their story. … The best advice is to remember to let someone be the star of their own show. Keep the focus on the person talking.”
“How is it that we who have problems ourselves are so quick to try to fix someone else’s problem? James was spot on when he wrote, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak’ (James 1:19). I’d like to suggest that a great paraphrase for this verse is, ‘Let everyone be quick to listen and slow to give advice!’”
“Don’t tell people what to do; ask them questions. … You gain greater insight, they gain greater self-awareness, and the two of you grow closer. … When we dare to ask someone what they want, we give them the opportunity to verbalize their need. … The best questions allow people to explore what’s in their hearts.”
“When you validate another person’s feelings, you’re basically saying, ‘Your feelings make sense.’ You compassionately acknowledge that the person’s feelings are important and that those feelings are understandable. You don’t correct feelings or instruct a person on how to feel. You simply offer understanding. … Validating someone’s feelings doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with the actions of the other person. … Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They’re just feelings. It’s what we do with those feelings that determines whether or not we sin. … Validate feelings, but only validate actions that line up with Scripture.”
“In your relationships, what does it look like for you to mimic Jesus and show others how valuable they are? How does your face send the signal, ‘I want to hear what you have to say’? Your nonverbal signals act as a green light, inviting others to share their feelings.”
“Conflict can be transformational. In the chaos of an argument, if you will listen to understand and focus on meeting the others need, you’ll be more able to work as a team, coming up with a solution that satisfies both. In the end, your relationship will emerge stronger and more resilient.”
“People are dying to feel heard, and unless we’ve purpose in our hearts to offer our full presence to others, we’ll drift through life distracted and dishonor those who matter to us in the process.”
Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way wrecked me … in a good way! Ann shows us how Jesus steps into our brokenness, and how He then prepared us to take His love into other people’s brokenness. It’s a fantastic book, so you really should check out my book review by clicking here.
“I am not the mistakes I have made; I am the righteousness He has made. I am not the plans I have failed; I am the perfectness He has finished. I am not the wrongs I have done; I am the faultlessness He has been. I am not the sins I have chosen; I am chosen by the Beloved, regardless of my sins. In Christ, I am chosen, accepted, justified, anointed, sealed, forgiven, redeemed, complete, free, Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home.”
“You’ve got to give your gifts or they may become your idols.”
“The thread of your life becomes a tapestry of abundant colors only if it ties itself to other lives. The only way to strengthen the fabric of society is to let the threads of your life break away to let Christ, who is in us, weave around other threads. … The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.”
“We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.”
“Don’t we all have to unlearn fear before we can truly learn to love?”
“Jesus comes to give you freely through His passion what every other god forces you to try to get through performance.”
“Compassion says there will only be abundance for me when there is abundance for you.”
“Instead of flexing His muscle, Jesus surrendered His muscle to the nail. Instead of leveraging His position, He leveraged Himself out on a Cross. He made sacrifice His default position. Instead of stonewalling people with His authoritative power, He laid down His authority, lay down in a tomb, lay in a suffering death till the stone was rolled away.”
“The focus of God’s people is not to create explanations for suffering, but to create communities around suffering, co-suffering communities to absorb suffering and see it transform into cruciform grace.”
“Suffering is not a problem that needs a solution as much as it’s an experience that needs compassion.”
“Faith is confidence in the kindness of God, no matter the confusion of circumstances.”