We try to relate to the experiences of others to our experiences. We try to sympathize with them to expand our understanding of the other persons struggles and attempt to comfort them out of our own experience. To let them know they’re not alone. To make them feel loved. And that impulse to comfort others is a good impulse.
However, we cannot truly understand nor sympathize. Why? Because in most cases we do not really know what a person is going through. We may be able to relate to some circumstances but we can’t really know what a person is going through. That is wisdom.
The reality is, when someone is suffering we don’t know what they’re going through. Even if we have experienced similar circumstances as a person who is suffering we don’t process the world the way they do.
And we don’t have the same personal history, biological makeup, or support system. When someone is going through the meat grinder we can only know a tiny portion of what they are really experiencing.
Our limited ability to know the suffering of others is what makes 2 Corinthians 7:6 so precious. It says, “But God, who comforts the downcast …” Jesus knows us fully. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, our family history, our biological makeup, our worldview. He knows every nook and cranny of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And He also knows suffering on an intense, personal level. Jesus’ knowledge of suffering is not abstract, ivory tower, textbook knowledge.
Jesus was a man of sorrows. He was mocked, betrayed and humiliated. As He hung on the cross, He was cut off from the Father. Jesus knew excruciating, overwhelming, crushing sorrow.
The combination of Jesus’ omniscience and personal experience with deep suffering perfectly equip Him to comfort us in our own suffering. He really does know what we’re going through, and He is ready to comfort us when we are downcast. He doesn’t leave us to muddle and slog through suffering on our own. He doesn’t tell us to suck it up, buck up and get up. He meets us in our downcast state and pours out grace upon us.
Suffering tempts us to withdraw from God when in reality we should press hard into God. Are you downcast? Are you suffering? Do you feel like you’ve been chewed up and spit out? Do you feel like butter scraped over too much bread?
Draw near to the God who comforts the downcast. Draw near to the God who knows you exactly and knows exactly what you need. Draw near in your weakness and weariness and ready to call it quits.
God has a special place in His heart for the downcast. Move toward that place.
Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. —Jack Handey