The Power of Empathy
After I invited subscribers to share their experiences of reaching out with empathy, I received this response, printed with permission:
Good morning Gordon,
I’ve been thinking and praying about an opportunity to share something centered around your empathy emails. God has really used your words to open my mind to a fuller understanding of what that really means in so many areas: my prayer life, my actions and my REactions to life issues. Here’s something I feel the Lord leading me to share.
Several years ago a very dear girlfriend lost her husband. She was able to share details of how she felt and how difficult it was for her to cope with simple daily responsibilities – but the most devastating for her was the loneliness and isolation because she felt like a 3rd or 5th wheel in a gathering of her friends who still had their husbands- it was nothing they did. She knew it was her own feelings of anguish, depression and anxiety that propelled those feelings. Now 6 years later she still struggles but with more grace and more God-centered enlightenment, which gives her great strength. She’s a very strong Christian, so she knew “what” she had to do & “how” to do it, but her emotions often got the best of her, which paralyzed her. I listened but admittedly didn’t truly empathize.
I have felt sad for her while trying to understand. My husband and I have felt a prodding from the Lord to supply her with financial help: food, physical help around her house etc. She has always been very appreciative.
Truth be fully told though – I can’t say I ever tried to “empathize” with her by putting myself in her place. It was too painful to go that far, perhaps. God forgive me.
Once I began putting your ideas for empathy into place with her, I noticed the Lord opening several doors toward other women I barely knew and another I’ve known for many years who also had lost their husbands. I guess we’re now at that stage of life where this occurs more often. You know like when you’re 18 and all your friends are graduating High School, then, at age 23, college graduations, soon after weddings, then children, and grandchildren, and now this.
As the Lord began to make me more astute to my new friends’ agonizing pain through the loss of their husbands I was able to “empathize” – hopefully enough – certainly more than before and hopefully more in the future as I’m willing to let God fill that part of me and pour it out. I had to ASK the Lord to help me do this, though.
What I’ve seen is a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit on their lives, as well as my own. It’s incredible!! It’s spirit-filled! It’s joy-filled! I became so overwhelmed with a deep thankfulness for still having my dear husband with me here on earth! I don’t expect to be able to fully grasp their pain in entirety because that hasn’t been my experience but I can certainly utilize “empathy” toward them that I’ve found has been life changing for these widows and me! – It’s also contagious! I noticed as others in my church witnessed this outpouring of the Holy Spirit through empathetic energies and more hands-on prayer and actions, others began to display the same feelings of empathy and tribute to these widows. What a God we have! These women have expressed, with tears running down their faces, that their void has been filling in, due to all this which was, I believe, triggered by simple but profound empathy from so many – directed by the Holy Spirit!
Thank You, Lord, and thank you, Gordon, for bringing this incredible lesson into a full spectrum of light.
I think of the following verses. (Italics mine)
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11 “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Cor. 12:13
“Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” 1 Timothy 5: 3-4
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Acts 6:1
Abba, help me to remain steadfast in all that You encourage me to do. Keep me ever vigilant to learn of You through any means You deem necessary so that I may be obedient to Your call on my life. Forgive me for being slothly in my desire to understand because of my own selfish fears. Help me to put on faith in place of fear; strength instead of weakness; love instead of indifference. Show me the errors of my ways always. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen!
Blessings and honor and glory to our King of kings!
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