“EMPATHY is your pain in my heart.” That is how an elderly missionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses once defined this precious quality. Jehovah God is the foremost example of empathy. He feels personally the pain his people suffer.
How can we be sure of that? Jehovah’s tender empathy found perfect expression in the words and actions of Jesus when he was on earth. (John 5:19) Consider, for example, the incident described at John 11:33-35.
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus suffered an untimely death, Jesus headed for Lazarus’ village. Understandably, Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, were overcome with grief. Jesus dearly loved this family. (John 11:5)
How, then, would he respond? The account says: “Jesus, . . . when he saw [Mary] weeping and the Jews that came with her weeping, groaned in the spirit and became troubled; and he said: ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him: ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus gave way to tears.” (John 11:33-35)
Why did Jesus cry? True, his beloved friend Lazarus was dead, but Jesus was about to undo that by resurrecting him. (John 11:41-44) Was there something else that also touched Jesus’ emotions?
Look again at the above-quoted words. Notice that when Jesus saw Mary and those with her weeping, he “groaned” and “became troubled.” The original-language words used here indicate intense emotions.* Jesus was deeply moved by what he saw.
The surge of strong emotions within him was evident as his eyes brimmed with tears. Clearly, Jesus’ heart was touched by the pain of others. Have you ever been moved to tears because someone you care about was weeping?—Romans 12:15.
Jesus’ empathy gives us valuable insight into the qualities and ways of his Father, Jehovah. Recall that Jesus so perfectly reflected his Father’s qualities that he could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9)
So when we read that “Jesus gave way to tears,” we can be sure that Jehovah personally feels the pain of his worshippers. Indeed, other Bible writers confirm this fact. (Isaiah 63:9; Zechariah 2:8) What a tender God Jehovah is!
Empathy attracts. When we are discouraged or depressed, we are drawn to a fellow human who can comprehend our circumstances and share our pain. How much more we are drawn to Jehovah, a compassionate God who feels our pain and understands the reason for our tears!—Psalm 56:8.
The Greek word rendered “gave way to tears” often refers to “a quiet weeping,” while the word used to describe the weeping of Mary and the others may signify “a loud weeping, a wailing.”