I was preparing to speak about the healing power of empathy last week when God brought the point home in a very moving object lesson.
Our neighborhood ladies Bible Study had just gotten under way Friday when Lynn (name changed) appeared at the front door, visibly shaken and puffy-eyed.
"Can you please pray for me?" she asked, her voice breaking mid-sentence. "I have to put my dog down and the pet hospice vet is coming to the house at 3:00 to euthanize him."
Lynn's beloved Chippy was nearly 14, deaf, and suffering from congestive heart failure. He'd begun having seizures all night and she knew, as shattering as the decision was, that it was time. But knowing it's the right thing to do doesn't make it easier.
We surrounded Lynn and laying our hands on her quivering body, prayed for God to give her His supernatural comfort and peace during this most difficult time. Lynn left immediately afterward, saying she wanted to spend as much time as possible with Chippy.
I couldn't stop thinking about Lynn the rest of the day. She was divorced and her kids were grown; Chippy was all she had. My heart ached for her. As much as I didn't want to relive the searing pain of having to put my sweet dog, Dusty, down several years before, I knew it was time for me to act as Jesus' hands and feet on earth. I cancelled my afternoon appointments and went to Lynn's house around 2:30.
The vet was an hour late arriving, which heaped hot coals upon Lynn's heart as we waited for the dreadful inevitable. But the beautiful part was that during that agonizing hour, one by one, four more girls from the neighborhood Bible Study trickled in to add their support. When the horrible moment finally came, we were a cohesive prayer force.
We cried with Lynn and laughed through our tears over funny stories about Chippy. We were God's love with skin on it.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us that God never wastes a hurt. He comforts us in our affliction so that we will in turn be able to comfort others.
Jesus demonstrated the healing power of empathizing with those who are suffering when he cried with Mary and Martha in mourning their brother's death, although he knew Lazerus would be restored to life and health in a matter of hours. He chose to enter their grief and feel their pain.
Jesus wept. One of the shortest but most powerful verses in the Bible.
Empathy opens up a channel directly from the heart to the Holy Spirit. It's a ministry we all can be a part of if we put just forth the necessary time and effort.