Alongside

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13

In his book entitled The Happiest Life, radio personality Hugh Hewitt says there are seven gifts successful people give to others.  One of those gifts is empathy.  Empathy is the ability to come alongside someone who is hurting. As scripture puts it, being able to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  This is what Job’s friends did when calamity struck him.  They showed up and simply sat with him.  There were no pious words, no attempts at explanation.  Their presence said it all: “We are with you and for you.  You are not alone.”

Some people think that those who experience trauma need space to sort things through. Assume the opposite. Most people need presence. –David Brooks

shoulderYes, we need to know we are not alone.  We need to feel love, especially when we are hurting and when words simply won’t help.  As Rabbi Kushner advises:  “Show up and shut up.”  But, empathy costs.  It hurts to be with someone who is hurting.  The sadness hits us when we walk into the hospital to see someone we love.  It feels awkward to make that phone call to someone who has suffered loss. And when we empathize, we are risking the possibility that coming alongside someone will unearth sorrow of our own.

So, why risk?  Simple, empathy is love. It is love in a most basic form.  It is saying, “I put you before me, your encouragement before my safety.”  It shows forth the gospel, Jesus’ determination to be God with us even though he knew it would be the death of him.

…the gift of empathy means a real willingness to go with suffering people wherever they are and walk with them as long as is required, to understand and to patiently endure with them all that their illness or loss entails. –Hugh Hewitt

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on February 10, 2017 at 12:31 am

    Amen. We can all do better at this.

    Reply

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