Empathy is not the same thing as knowing how someone feels. You can’t know exactly how someone feels. And their knowing that you felt the same way isn’t what they need anyway.
Empathy is appreciating the need for presence and support that others need in their pains, fears, and losses.
Our pains, fears, and losses draw us toward others in their experiences when those experiences would otherwise repel us away from them.
Think of the season of life when pain, fear, and loss were strangers. The pain, fear, and loss of others left us in retreat.
Our own pain, fear, and loss changes us so that when others suffer pain, fear, and loss we want to draw near.
Our pain, fear, and loss are not good. But this is one outcome they bring to our lives.

Jesus is the president of the fellowship of sufferers. When you go to him, expect to encounter understanding, compassion, and love … but that’s not enough, and God made it not enough. A friend of mine told me that he was never alone because Jesus was his “best friend.” While I get that, it is a denial of what it means to be human. Sometimes we need Jesus “with skin on.” Jesus said that we would do greater works than he himself had done (John 14:12). And one of those works is to walk in the darkness with our brothers and sisters.
A part of the sanctification process (and it should be a part of discipleship in the church) is preparation for a mature connection with one another. I believe that our own personal losses and pain are designed, at least par-tally, for that very purpose. It is making us “holy” enough to listen, love, accept, and laugh with brothers and sisters in Christ who, if it weren’t for us, would experience that alone. When I told a friend about a particularly difficult period in my life, he said, “You should not have had to face that alone. I wish I had known you then.”

Steve Brown, Laughter And Lament, New Growth Press, 2022, pgs. 121.

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