by Kim Engelmann
““All the believers were together and had everything in common.”
—Acts 2:44, NIV
If I have been living in a guilty place, I am so grateful for forgiveness. If I have been isolated for too long, I thrill at seeing a familiar face. If I have been chronically ill and am suddenly healed, I am far more grateful for the gift of each day and my health.
If I have suffered, I often have a heart for those who are suffering, and from my experience of pain my capacity for empathy grows.
Empathy and suffering are closely connected. It is almost as if the suffering we go through enlarges and cleans out more space within us for empathy. When we befriend our suffering instead of resisting it, we become more like Jesus who willingly gave Himself up for us. He was able to look pain in the face and embrace it. Through His willing sacrifice, He then created a community of people (the church) who were meant to do life together and together suffer for and with one another. This is why community is so important for anyone who is going through suffering. We were never meant to do life alone. In New Testament Scripture, there is always community, friendship, connection, and honest dialogue. Empathy is forged in the challenge of community where we see people’s weaknesses and flaws in ways that make us want to withdraw. The Christian mandate and mission is that we stay the course. Like a gas station, sometimes the church is a service station where we are served, and sometimes a filling station where we are called to fill others up. Empathy in Christian community is the very heartbeat of God.
[To purchase a copy of this video (or a longer version) go here]
[For additional reading about Empathy we encourage you to get a copy of Recovering Faith: Words for the Way. Volume 2]
- Do you have an empathic Christ-centered community that you are doing life with? If not, how might you find one?
- What are the challenges of showing empathy in community?
- What are the benefits?
- How did Jesus show empathy to his disciples? Do you remember specific ways?
- How might this be instructive for the church today and for our own recovery?
O Lord, help us to use our suffering
for the sake of others
and not to withdraw in isolation.
Teach us that, in suffering,
empathy grows strong.
In Jesus’ name,
who suffered for us willingly and openly
with great empathy.