Does God Have Empathy?
WHAT CREATION TEACHES US
Empathy is defined as “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.” Mental-health expert Dr. Rick Hanson states that “empathy is in our bones.”
CONSIDER: Why are we endowed with empathy, a quality unmatched in any other species? The Bible explains that God created humankind in his image. (Genesis 1:26) We are made in the image of God in that we can reflect his personality and thus display a measure of his fine qualities. Hence, when empathy moves caring people to help others, they mirror the empathy of their compassionate Creator, Jehovah God.—Proverbs 14:31.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES US ABOUT GOD’S EMPATHY
God has empathy for us and hates to see us suffer. Regarding the people of ancient Israel who endured harsh slavery in Egypt followed by 40 difficult years in the wilderness the Bible says: “During all their distress it was distressing to him.” (Isaiah 63:9) Note that God was not merely aware of their distress. He could feel their pain. “I well know the pains they suffer,” he stated. (Exodus 3:7) “Whoever touches you,” says God, “touches the pupil of my eye.” (Zechariah 2:8) When others hurt us, his heart aches with ours.
The Bible assures us that even though we may feel self-condemned and unworthy of God’s empathy, “God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” (1 John 3:19, 20) God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is fully aware of all our circumstances, thoughts, and feelings. He has empathy for us.
We can look to God for comfort, wisdom, and support, knowing that he comes to the aid of those who are distressed
The Scriptures assure us
“You will call, and Jehovah will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am!’”—ISAIAH 58:9.
“‘For I well know the thoughts that I am thinking toward you,’ declares Jehovah, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope. And you will call me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’”—JEREMIAH 29:11, 12.
“Do collect my tears in your skin bottle. Are they not recorded in your book?”—PSALM 56:8.
GOD NOTICES, UNDERSTANDS, AND FEELS FOR US
Can knowing that God has empathy for us help us deal with adversity? Consider Maria’s experience:
“I felt that life was hard and unjust after I experienced the immense pain of losing my 18-year-old son following his two-year battle with cancer. I was angry with Jehovah for not intervening and curing him!
“Six years later, a loving and compassionate friend in the congregation listened as I expressed my feeling that Jehovah did not love me. After listening to me for hours without interrupting, she quoted a verse that moved me. It was 1 John 3:19, 20, which says: ‘God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.’ She explained that Jehovah understands our distress.
“Despite this, it was hard for me to let go of my anger! Then I read Psalm 94:19, which says: ‘When anxieties overwhelmed me, you comforted and soothed me.’ I felt as if the verses were written just for me! Eventually, I found it very soothing to be able to talk to Jehovah about my distress, knowing that he listens and understands.”
How comforting it is to know that God understands and feels for us! But why, then, is there so much suffering? Is it because God is punishing us for wrongdoing? Will God do anything to end all suffering? These matters will be addressed in the following articles.
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