I'm young but slowly becoming less young. As I become less young I want to become more mature. Believe it or not, becoming less young does not automatically make one more mature, but it sure helps. In my few years on earth I've experienced things and been around others who have experienced things that have helped mature me. This maturity, caused by God, is seen in a slowly growing wisdom that is often rooted in empathy.
We cannot mature without growing more empathetic. Young Matt is slowly become less hard and more empathetic. Often the last people to notice this is my family, but I promise that it is happening.
My experiences and observations are helping make me softer, more empathetic and more Christ-like, but beyond life experiences the Psalms help cultivate empathy in me. Consider this passage from Psalm 31:
"Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors;
I am a dread to my friends...
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear the slander of many;
there is terror on every side;
they conspire against me
and plot to take my life." Psalm 31:9-13
Before empathy grows in a believer's life we can be callous when someone feels like King David did in the verses above. Without empathy we are quick to throw out the "Sunday School" answer and try to fix the broken person with a sentence of theology. We may even say the next line of the psalm:
"But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, 'You are my God." Psalm 31:14
This verse is the answer to the wallowing in the previous verses but we can't show Christ-like empathy by firing "Sunday School" answers like a machine gun at a hurting person. We must develop and exercise empathy. Before we can quote verse 14 we must acknowledge that they are feeling verses 9-13 and that feeling that is not sin! David wrote verses 9-13 and verse 14, but I wonder how long it took him to go through the process of moving from one part of the psalm to the other in his life. Maybe there's a week or a month between those verses in his life. We can't expect people to process a psalm in the time it takes to read a psalm.
For those of you that feel stuck in a hard place... For those of you angry at God... For those of you worried that God will leave you in despair... It's okay to feel that way, just remember to take your fears and anger to God because He can and desires to handle it for you and with you.
For those of you wanting to mature in your faith... develop and practice empathy. Don't demand that everyone have the right answer or the "right" response to a situation. Practice putting yourself in their shoes before you put your foot in your mouth.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses..." Hebrews 4:15a
Develop empathy and practice it today.