As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Luke 7:12-13


Haven’t you found that those who best understand you are those who live the kind of life you do? Those who know?

It’s easier to empathize with others when you can identify with them in some way – when they have similar illnesses, disabilities or life difficulties.

I’ve long believed in the value of peer support for people with mental health problems. Participants have problems in common with each other. Often they feel drawn to each other and become friends. They understand each other in ways most others don’t. This is why peer support groups like Living Room have been effective.

You can see too why Mother Teresa was as compassionate as she was when she ministered to the poor in Calcutta. By choosing to live in poverty herself, she was better able to empathize with the people she cared for.

These examples may help us understand why Jesus was able to identify so well with the people he served two thousand years ago – and as he does with us today. Jesus came to us in human form, yet “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). He lived in poverty most of his life, especially during his years of ministry, with “no place to lay his head” (Matt 8:20). His life was hard. Like some of us, he was “despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus knows.

Jesus fully empathizes when we suffer from illness and disability. I believe the very reason he draws as close as he does when we’re in need is because he himself has had similar experiences. When Jesus shows compassion it’s not because he pities us, as someone might when looking at a person in pain. Jesus shows his incredible love by looking deep inside us to feel our pain. He knows us through and through – involved in our entire being.

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Luke 9:35-36).

He still sees many of us today as sheep without a shepherd.  He has the compassion of a shepherd for his sheep. Like a shepherd he leads us to safe places to find forage. He cares for us.

Looking at the Scripture above, we see the empathy Jesus had for the widow. And when you and I are suffering, he feels our pain as well. His heart goes out to us and tells us, “Don’t cry.”