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Jesus and empathy

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
- Hebrews 4:15
We want to key in on one particular word in today’s passage: empathize. Jesus doesn’t just feel sorry for us; he shares our emotional state. (For more on empathy, see this video from Brené Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw).
Jesus saves us from our sin and brokenness and all the badness, but in the midst of all of that it’s important for us to remember that he doesn’t do it from a distance. He doesn’t mail in a small donation to carry us through. He doesn’t drop a couple of salvation bombs from his remote-control drone. He doesn’t wave a magic wand from a lofty heavenly cloud. Jesus gets close to us and shares our trouble with us.
The image of Jesus with dirty feet doesn’t drive the “What about all the bad stuff?” question away. But it does remind us that we don’t have to wrestle with the question or the bad stuff all on our own. Jesus knows what it’s like to experience bad stuff. He got hungry and tired, was betrayed and abandoned, suffered and died. He knows our human vulnerability from personal experience.
When we encounter bad stuff and the questions it raises, we need to draw close to Jesus. He reaches out to us in particularly powerful ways in those seasons. We can experience help and comfort in hard times if we are willing to open our hearts to him.
This is one of many reasons it can be helpful to develop some skills around and experience with prayer. Learning to connect with Jesus in prayer when life is calm and pacific will be of tremendous benefit when the clouds roll in and the seas begin to swell.
Try this prayer exercise today:

  • Thank God for three things
  • Ask God to help someone you care about
  • Ask God to help you with something
  • Ask God to bring to your mind …
    • A verse from scripture for you to reflect on throughout the day
    • A song for you to sing
    • A person for you to reach out to today
    • A way for you to engage the world for good
  • Say “Amen!”

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