When my kids’ dad died, they received cards and visits and gifts from several adults who had also lost their father when they were children or teenagers. Having experienced the trauma of losing a parent so early in life created a special sort of empathy in these people’s hearts.
That’s how it often is.
When we’ve gone through something difficult, we have a soft spot for others who then go through something similar. The woman who’s had a miscarriage sends an encouraging card or takes a self-care basket to the friend who’s having a miscarriage. The man who’s lost a job before sends a gift card to the guy who just got laid off. We feel camaraderie and kinship with people who are going through the same sort of tough stuff we’ve gone through.
God knows we’re designed this way, so this concept shows up in the Bible. In his letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul writes about “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4) We go through a hard time, and God shows up in the skin of other compassionate humans. Then, later, when we see someone else sludging their way through the same muck, we show up and comfort them. And on and on it goes. One person after another showing up to say, “Me too!”
It’s that Me Too moment that is so powerful – the moment we give someone the gift of knowing they aren’t the only person to ever experience this challenge or struggle. C.S. Lewis wrote that this is the moment friendship begins – the moment one person thinks or says to another, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” (“The Four Loves”)
I think this is part of why I love Jesus so much. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus is God putting on skin to become one of us and experience the full humanity of life. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus empathsizes with our weaknesses because he was tempted in all the same ways. (Hebrews 4:15). Reading through the four Gospels we see that Jesus knew poverty and loss and disappointment. He knew what it felt like for loved ones to turn their backs on him. He knew grief and frustration and loneliness. He knew hunger and pain and sorrow. Jesus wept alongside his friends. (John 11)
And this is why I think Jesus has special compassion for refugees and immigrants fleeing danger, running for their lives, desperate for a safe place. After Jesus was born, the evil Herod ordered a massacre of all babies in and around Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary grabbed up the baby Jesus in the middle of the night and fled to Egypt – trekking a hundred or more miles into another country to save their baby’s life.
When Jesus looks upon families thirsty and sweaty, hiking across a desert to find safety at our border, I think he sees the image of his own family — frightened teenage Mary shushing a wiggly baby as they hike hour after hour to safety. And the same comfort young Mary received from her God as she paused to nurse a hungry baby on a dangerous journey — that’s the comfort Jesus gives to the mother and her children running from horrendous gang violence in Central America, desperate to reach our southern border.
Jesus looks down at those children and whispers, “Me too.”
Does our attitude reflect our Jesus’ compassion?