Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Spiritual Empathy

The study results are amazing: there actually is a class of individuals who truly feel others' pain in a very literal sense. (See the article at http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSN1629650020070618).

One of the key paragraphs appears on page 2 of the story: "Other studies have suggested a link between empathy and mirror systems, but Ward said this was the first to suggest empathy involves more than one mechanism: an emotional gut reaction -- which appears exaggerated in the mirror-touch synesthetes -- and a cognitive process that involves thinking about how someone else feels."

What a beautiful reflection of a spiritual truth! We are told by Paul in Gal. 6:2 to "bear one anothers' burdens"; in Rom. 12:15 he teaches us to "weep with those who weep". And the second greatest command is to "love your neighbor as yourself". All of these speak to some level of identification with another individual.

Individuals who intercede for others on a personal level relate a sense of spiritual empathy parallel to the physical type mentioned in the article. They "feel" the weight of another individual's burden. They sense the oppression of the lost. Ronald Dunn, in "Don't Just Stand there, Pray Something", relates that when he was suffering a deep depression over the health of his son and other issues, he awoke one morning early to find that the weight was lifted. Later he received a letter from a friend who said he had felt led to pray for Dunn and ask the Lord to give him whatever portion of Dunn's burden God intended the friend to carry. You won't be surprised to learn that when Dunn questioned the man, he told him that the specific day and time of his prayer corresponded with Dunn's awakening early to find a burden lifted!

As you minister and serve today, as you live amongst a people who have so much pain and so many needs, as you hear of brothers and sisters whose needs are more than you know how to respond to -- remember this principle. God intends for us to be spiritually empathetic - just like these individuals in the article. By God's grace, seek to bear the burdens, and feel what those who weep are feeling.

Sure, in your flesh it's more than you can handle. But in God's divine plan, it's just the way it's supposed to work. He will equip you as you seek His strength to intercede and serve on this new level.

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