by Graham Mol
This morning a particular article caught my eye: Imlonely: How a YouTube music channel became a mental health hub
The subtitle of the article reads: Among the thousands of music channels on YouTube there is one like no other. Imlonely started as a musical diary for one person but became a mental health community providing support to thousands of young people going through their toughest times.
I was greatly encouraged as I read of how a community of young people (mostly teenagers) has developed in the comment section of the YouTube videos to be a place of comfort and encouragement. Where those who are struggling mentally and emotionally can find that they are not alone in how they may be feeling. There are others who can understand and share their struggle. Words of comfort and encouragement far outweigh the cynical or dismissive comments that one often finds in these online spaces.
This all reminded me of one of the most powerful tools of sharing God’s love with others: Empathy.
Empathy can simply be described as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. This is one of the descriptions of empathy that we find in the Bible:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
A joy shared is a joy multiplied. When something wonderful happens in our lives, we all have that desire to tell someone about it. What a blessing it is to be a multiplier of that joy and rejoice along with someone who is rejoicing. When it comes to the other side of the coin, to weep with those weeping brings comfort in the knowledge it gives the sorrowing person that they are not alone in their time of need. There is someone who seeks to understand and even share in the burden. “You are not alone” are some of the most beautiful words that can be shared with someone, even when they aren’t spoken out load.
The great thing about empathy is that you don’t need to have the answers and solutions to another’s problems. Sometimes we are blessedly able to help, but never underestimate the power of presence, coming alongside another, and the difference it can make.
It’s true that some of us are naturally more inclined to empathy than others. If you struggle in this area do not fear, for we have the Lord with us, His Holy Spirit to guide us. In Jesus we have the most empathetic person to have walked this earth:
Therefore, He had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since He himself has suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
A prayer such as “Help me Lord to understand so that I can share in this person’s joy/grief” is a really good place to start. No one knows that person better and how they are feeling than the Lord Himself.
Finally, if you are feeling alone, my prayer is for you to have someone to come alongside you to share in your joy or grief. Maybe you’re just needing that reassurance that you are not alone. There are many wonderful people in this congregation who would graciously share the love of God with you in your time of need. Please don’t hesitate to either reply to this blog post below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can be in contact with you.