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Given recent events many are alone this holiday season. Some have lost loved ones, many simply aren't getting together in efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19. One of the greatest feelings of isolation doesn't come from being alone, it comes from not being able to love up on others. When our hearts long to take friends out to a restaurant, invite neighbors over for dinner, or bring family home for the holidays and such plans are thwarted it can be no clearer that we're losing connections we once took for granted. Many of you have the norms you do for the holidays but this year has been far from the norm. May I share with you what encouraged me?


Empathy means "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another from within their frame of reference". Empathy doesn't need justification in order to be felt. In other words, if you are sad, even if the cause of your sadness may seem unwarranted or unjustified, yet one who is empathetic can feel and share with you in that sadness at a heart level regardless of it being warranted. Why? Because they love you and have a heart level interest in your happiness. People like this will gladly spend their resources, their time, and even themselves in order that you would be lifted up. Why? Because when you are lifted up at a heart level, so are they. When a person who feels what you feel sees you hurt, they hurt. When a person who feels what you feel sees you grieve they grieve. When a person who feels what you feel sees you sad, they are sad. When a person who feels what you feel sees you down, they are down. And for those who are greatly empathetic and they see you cry, they cry.


Did you know God is empathetic?


When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. - John 11:33 (ESV)


Lazarus had just died and the Jews had come to console Mary and Martha who had just lost their brother. Now Jesus loved Lazarus too (John 11:5) but He was not greatly troubled because Lazarus had died for He already knew He was going to raise Him from the dead (John 11:4, 11), rather it was only after observing those around him weeping that He was deeply moved and greatly troubled. Jesus was hurting simply because they were hurting regardless of their reasons and in His troubled spirit we are given the shortest bible verse in the New Testament:


Jesus wept. - John 11:35


That word "wept" in Greek is dakruó is only used here in the entire New Testament and means "properly, to shed quiet (actual) tears; to weep silently (with tears)." I don't picture this moment was one necessarily for outward display but was a very real inward response in Jesus resulting from being "deeply moved" and "greatly troubled" at their weeping. This was genuine. Sympathy means merely to understand (at a mind level) someone else's suffering, empathy goes beyond that to actually experience the feelings (at a heart level) of those enduring the suffering.


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 (NIV)


The Greek word for empathize here is sumpatheó which Strong's Concordance defines as "to have a fellow feeling with", NAS Exhaustive Concordance defines it as "to be affected with the same feeling as another" The King James Version words it this way "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities..." God not only knows what you feel, He shares in those feelings.


Some of us may be tempted to think that God may love others this way, but does He really love me this way? I would argue He does. Often we're tempted to think others may be deserving of such attention but we ourselves are not, or we feel we are insignificant and therefore easily overlooked. If I may glean a side note from a prophecy Jesus was giving in Matthew 25. Jesus in speaking of a future judgment draws attention to those who were considered "the least" by those on the earth. Among these included the likes of those who were prisoners, strangers, sick, naked, and hungry (Matt. 25:35-36). He then illustrates to those He addresses that whatever happens to "the least of these" happens to Him. If they are blessed, it's as if He was blessed (Matt. 25:40) and if they are neglected it's as if He was neglected (Matt. 25:45).


Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. - Romans 12:15


If you're an empathetic person you know that as you feel what someone else feels it goes both ways. Yes if they grieve you grieve, but on the other side of that, if they rejoice you rejoice! An empathetic person loves to see loved ones blessed for when they are, they themselves feel the joy their loved ones feel. I believe that is why when "the least" are blessed, God Himself says "it's like it was done unto Me!" and He rejoices! It's no wonder Paul encourages us to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep", for in doing so you are reflecting the heart of your Heavenly Father!


Have you ever looked upon a child or even a pet who through their own foolishness was doing something to hurt themselves and yet you still felt for them? Some of you may feel isolated due to reasons beyond your control but some of you may feel isolated because of your own actions, decisions, and sin. This doesn't put God off (Rom. 5:8, 10). As Paul's exhortation above has not conditions neither does God's love and therefore His love for you is not and has not diminished even if your circumstances may be self-inflicted. If God's love for us diminished because of our sin then we're all disqualified equally (James 2:10), fortunately that's not the case!


You know what an empathetic heart wants the most in the execution of their love for you? It's not praise. It's not glory. It's not repayment, nor even thanksgiving. While those expressions of gratitude are appreciated they aren't the driving force. When one is so invested in the well being of another what they want the most is for that person to be well, and as they feel what they feel they likewise want them to be joyful, content, peaceful, hopeful, encouraged, comforted, and free from things like worry, fear, and anxiety. Because when that person has reason to rejoice the one who loves them rejoices too! And the greater the love the person has for them the greater they feel the joy of that person, or in the case of God who's love is the greatest, it's as if He Himself is being blessed when His loved ones are blessed (Matt. 25:40). Nobody has a greater investment in your well being than God. Furthermore God has concerned Himself with your joy (John 15:11, 22, 17:13), your contentment (Phil. 4:11-13), your peace (John 14:27, 16:33, Phil. 4:7), your hope (Jer. 29:11, Eph. 1:18, 1 Pet. 5:10), your encouragement (Rom. 15:5, 2 Cor. 4:16, Phil. 1:6), your comfort (2 Cor. 1:3, Job. 5:11), and wants you free of things like worry (Isa. 40:10, Matt. 6:25-34), fear (John 14:27, Psa. 23:4, 27:1, 34:4, Josh. 1:9, Isa. 35:4), and anxiety (1 Pet. 5:7, Psa. 94:19, Phil. 4:6) why? As Peter puts it (1 Pet. 5:7) "because He cares for you". God went out of His way to become our "all in all" (Col. 3:11, 1 Cor. 15:28, Eph. 4:6).


When God's arm is stretched out and His hand open, you know what He wants the most? For you to take it. What gives God the most joy is for those He loves to allow Him to love them. Not to reject it as one who is unworthy (John 13:8) but to receive it (Luke 15:19, 22-24, 32). That's the kind of faith that pleases God (Heb. 11:6). The driving force behind God saving you is that you would be saved (Heb. 12:2, Isa. 53:10).


Many understand that God dwells with us (Matt. 1:23, 28:20, Heb. 13:5, John 14:16-17, 2 Cor. 6:16). As Christians we understand that God dwells in us (Rom. 8:10, 1 Cor. 3:16, 2 Cor. 13:5, Eph. 3:17, Gal. 2:20). But often overlooked is the fact that we also dwell in God (John 14:23, 15:4, 17:21, 1 John 2:24, Rev. 3:20). It's easy to understand that God moves in our hearts, but it's interesting that we also move in God's heart. From angering and grieving Him (Mark 3:5, Eph. 4:30) to giving Him cause for joy, cause to dote, and cause to sing loudly over us (Zeph. 3:17, Luke 15:20, 22-24, 32, Isa. 5:1, 62:5); God has us in His heart. It's no wonder scripture is full of encouragement and revelation of God's love for us. For when we are encouraged, God is encouraged. When we know the love that God has for us, God exults! (Zeph. 3:17).


Perhaps nobody can understand loneliness better than Christ who forsaken by the Father, abandoned by those He loved, punished by those He came to save, betrayed by those He called friends, and left to die for crimes He did not commit. The very same Christ who endured that so that you would never have too says to you now "I will never leave you nor abandon you" (Heb. 13:5, Deut. 31:6) and "I am with you" (Matt. 1:23, 28:20), So if you find yourself alone, be alone together with God. If you are isolated, be isolated together with God. If you've been affected by Covid, so has He. If you have been hurt by family, friends, co-workers, or even yourself, so has He. Immanuel means God with us which I hope you realize now is far more than a physical presence but it's a spiritual fusion with out spirits, our souls, the core of our being. This is what union with God means. We aren't merely co-inhabitants with Christ, we are fused together with Him, forged as one with Christ! So if you are to weep know He is with you. If you rejoice, He shares in your joys too!


God already bears your burdens, and because God is loving and empathetic it gives Him joy when you let Him be the muscle. Likewise God is abounding in lovingkindness and full of grace and it pleases Him when you'll let Him lavish those things on you! (Isa. 30:18). Nothing else is needed, it's a free gift for those that will receive Him. As it was with the prodigal, God's heart, when freed to, comes running, embracing, and giving kisses (Luke 15:20), all ways that the prodigal's Father wanted to communicate to the prodigal at a heart level "you are loved". God loved Him (period), and while these were an expression of the Father's love they were an expression meant to communicate to the son so the son would know and rejoice in the Father's love for Him too. Just as many things including this very story are meant to communicate that to us. And because God is empathetic, He can't NOT celebrate and rejoice when that communication is received! (cf. Luke 15:32). When someone let's God love up on them, God's heart is moved in a big way! There's no other way to explain the word "had" here.


But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” - Luke 15:32

I've heard lovers often get caught in continue loops of "no, I love you more". When it's us it's fun, but when I hear others doing it it can be annoying and if they are on the phone, well, sometimes I want to hang it up lol. But when I think about God, when I reflect on the truth of His great love, I say to God "I love you" but rightfully I think He could say to me "I love you more" and I'd have no ground to counter. As I learn He's not trying to get me to one-up Him, (as if I could), but rather His delight is my receiving His love, I'm working on putting that into practice and simply enjoying Him and what He's done for me (after all that's a blessing for both of us) and reflecting on that this holiday season. I pray you will too.


One last thing I wanted to share. All of heaven is very invested in your well being.


I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. - Matthew 15:7


As fallen humans we often are only absorbed with what affects us directly. If I'm being honest with you, even as a Christian I'm often put to shame by the love and care of non-Christians. Bible passages like Mathew 5 often remind me of just how selfish I am. For example, Jesus commands in Matthew 5:47 that we are to do more than non-believes who may only greet their brothers and sisters. Yet I don't do so hot at even staying in touch with family.


Now I'm under grace. My bringing that up isn't necessarily for confession but to point out how amazing it is that the angels care about each of us. Notice the individual-ness of what Jesus is saying when he points out "one" sinner. While I'm sure the angels care about what happens with the bride of Christ (the church) as a whole, they are also deeply invested into you as one single person. This joy isn't just relevant to those who repent, notice the comparison, they do have joy over those who do not need repentance as well. What I'm getting at is this, everything going on in your life, they are looking at you with great love and are vested in all that happens in your life. While we may be lackadaisical in our relationships because of the weakness of our flesh, they are not. They love you with a Godly love and that not lacking and they do not grow weak as we in our fallen nature do.


These aren't the only ones in heaven invested in your well being. While the majority of this article revolves around the One in whom all these good gifts come from (Jam. 1:17), as it is with the angels there are other who even now are invested in what is going on in your life.


Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, - Hebrews 12:1


Who are these cloud of witnesses? Well the keyword here is "therefore", in other words, because what came previously is established, that which is about to be said is in effect as well. In this case, Hebrews 11 walks us through heroes in the faith such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the rest of OT believers but it's not limited to these as defined by the word "great" in reference to the cloud of witnesses indicating millions of believes who have gone before us, each bearing witness to the life of faith we now live. The struggles, victories, holding to faith when it's easy and when it's difficult, they too relate and therefore Paul encourages us to press on well knowing we're neither alone, nor isolated in our walk of faith!


God, the angels, and the saints who have gone home; good company indeed. God bless you.


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Have some feedback, insight, questions, comments, prayer requests, etc? Maybe you just want to share what God is doing in your life (I love praise reports), or maybe you can relate to some of the things here and need an ear. I'd love to hear from you!