You never know what journey other people are traveling; therefore, be kind. It’s biblical to be caring and attentive to others.
“Be ye kind…” Ephesians 5:32
As a result of loss, I’ve learned to be more observant. I have a new radar, thanks to grief. I have elevated levels of empathy and sympathy in my system. It was forced on me.
But I like it.
There’s a response to grief in the Christian community that if stated abruptly might come out as, “Have faith. Be strong. You know the end of the story. All is well.” Another way to say it might be, “Keep a stiff upper lip.” But knowing truth—the end of the story—and having empathy and sympathy are not mutually exclusive.
Case in point: Jesus himself. He wept over Lazarus.
“Jesus wept.” John 11:3
Take note of Jesus emoting over his friend, Lazarus. He hates death. Jesus hates death so much he came to overcome it with resurrection. A complete victory. But here’s the amazing thing to me. Jesus cried, broken over Lazarus, and he knew everything was about to be changed, resolved. He knew he was about to bring Lazarus back to life. And yet, he still wept over the loss. He was overcome with his own loss and the loss experienced by Mary and Martha. He was feeling the loss brought into the world by sin. Loss touches Jesus’ heart even though he has overcome it. Forever.
It’s okay—even good—that I cry over my own loss, and it’s also good that I cry with others. Let grief do its work to renew empathy and sympathy in your life.
“People who suffer want people who have suffered to tell them there is hope.” Steve Saint, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
Steven Curtis Chapman released a whole album about grief, mourning, and hope after the tragic loss of their daughter. One morning on a walk I was struck by his song, “A Little More Time to Love.” In my own loss and grief, I realized I had a little more time to love. I had a little more time to invest. I was left to serve and influence. I have a little more time to employ empathy and sympathy. I was left because, like Paul, it’s better that I remain. For now. There is a question I need to face: Will I fan the flame of renewed empathy and sympathy?
Chapman says it so well:
“There’s a day that is coming, a day that never will end. There in the light of His glory, everything broken will be whole again. And this will be the celebration, all of creation longs for. And while we’re waiting for that day to come, we’ve got a little more time to love. Just a little more time to love, we’ve got just a little more time to love.” Steven Curtis Chapman, “A Little More Time to Love”
While we grieve over loss, we do not grieve without hope. We do not grieve without purpose. We’ve got a little more time to love. In her book, Hopeful Lament, Terra McDaniel says, “…enduring suffering and loss is also meant to overflow into more empathy, compassion, and kindness for others.” Facing loss can produce great fruit. If my waiting before God in humility produces empathy and sympathy for others, I must put them to work.
Loss gives birth to empathy and sympathy for others.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms 40:1-3