Touched By Our Feelings

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In November of 2007 I accompanied my wife, Boni, to the funeral of Wanda, her dear lifelong friend. At the service, I experienced something remarkable and unexpected that lit up one Scripture for me in a way nothing except personal experience can do. I wasn’t close to Wanda. Although serious and sobered by the nearness of death, I was not gripped by the aching loneliness and sense of loss the death of a close friend or loved one brings.

At the service, as soon as Boni made eye contact with Wanda’s sister, they were drawn toward each other at a run, as if a magnetic force drew them. They threw their arms around each other. Their faces contorted in grimaces of anguish and grief and their eyes filled with tears. Their bodies were wracked with sobbing. Never in my life had I seen such a spontaneous and intense release of emotion.

As I watched, an uncontrollable torrent of empathy, which I did not anticipate, choked my throat and filled my eyes with tears. I had to draw in my breath in an involuntary sob. Had I not been ashamed to cry in front of a hundred strangers, I would have lost control completely. Never had I been gripped by an empathetic reflex such as that.

In that instant I completely understood the passage from the Book of John describing the resurrection of Lazarus.

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35).

We have all wondered why Jesus wept. The most plausible explanation I’ve heard was that Christ was crying from the grief that was a normal reaction to the death of a loved one. I believed that until the memorial service. Now I know that Christ wept from empathy! Notice it was the sight of the mourner’s weeping that caused the emotional response in Jesus.

This has important implications for us. Jesus was moved to tears because he sensed the mourners’ grief; his tears were an empathetic reaction to the emotions of others. He wasn’t mourning the faithlessness of the people, nor feeling grief over the death of Lazarus. Jesus Christ was overcome with empathy! This realization gives life to a Scripture from Hebrews:

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus Christ feels empathy for us and is touched by our emotions! He feels our hurts, pains, and fears. He rejoices with us in our victory when we overcome, and delights with us when we learn something vital by combining our life experiences with the truth of the Scriptures.

Christ is willing to give aid in time of need.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15).

This Scripture is good advice for man, and characterizes one of God’s behaviors. God rejoices or weeps as the tides of his people’s fortunes ebb and flow. We don’t worship an unfeeling God who does not appreciate our emotional state. Our God is in touch with us and is moved emotionally to act on our behalf.

I’m saddened by Wanda’s loss, but I’m grateful for the experience that taught me about Christ’s empathy for mankind. I also learned something about spiritual wisdom. It can’t all be learned from a book. We must learn by living it, following in Jesus’ footsteps.

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Image Credits: Joel Montes de Oca