Can I be transparent with you for a moment? It's hard for me to empathize. Seriously! I don't like saying it, but weeping with weepers is not my Spiritual gift.
Now, please don't confuse what I'm saying here. My heart aches deeply, when I see others grieving. There are intense feelings of sympathy and sorrow in my soul, for hurting people. But in these moments, when people are hurting and deeply wounded, and the right words seem paramount...I'm an absolutely lousy example of helpful and empathetic articulation. As a pastor, and shepherd, this is a tough place to be, but it is my reality.
Because of this, I have been awarded the opportunity to learn from my fairly hurtful and humiliating mistakes. Over the years, I've watched as my "well-intentioned" words have landed, painfully, on people who I care for deeply. The only good that has come from these awful and awkward experiences, is that they have led me to some significant wisdom. Sometimes, when I can't find the words to say, it's because there aren't words that would do justice. Sometimes words, even true words, can trivialize a situation and leave a grieving heart even more wounded than it already was. And sometimes, in the midst of deep suffering, people don't need to hear anything at all; they just need to know that they are not alone and that they don't have to carry the pain and sorrow on their own.
When people are suffering, they don't (really) want to know why. Yes, they may ask the question, but it's not because they (really) want the answer. When joy gets ravaged by loss and grief, people tend to say and do some unexplainable and even illogical things. I have found, that in these moments a truth modeled is often more impactful than a truth spoken. Hurt is deeply emotional, and words don't always live in that realm. Why does scripture tell us to weep with those who weep? Because weeping is the tangible evidence that we are genuinely invested into the person and situation; both emotionally and physically. Wounds that cut straight to the heart can't be mended by a cliché from a Hallmark Cards, or even the indexed Bible verse that we set aside for "such a time as this." Oh yes, the author of Hebrews was absolutely right when he said, God's word is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" but this doesn't mean that we can (or even should) share biblical truths without first investing deeply into the hurt, pain, and wounds of others; thereby earning the right to speak truth as we choose to live the truth out with those who are hurting.
When my son falls off his bike and scrapes his knee and is crying and bleeding on the side of the road, he doesn't need to hear me say, "Son, adversity builds character...get up dust yourself off and thank God for the lesson!" And not only that, but he also doesn't need me to carelessly lob Romans 8:28 in his general direction. While these two things are true and biblical, they are not what my son needs in that moment.
The right thing said at the wrong time (or in the wrong way) can be absolutely wounding.
What my son needs from me, is for me to pick him up and lovingly press him against my chest as I say to him, "Son, I'm sorry. It's going to be OK buddy, Daddy is here."
You see, regardless what hurting people say in the moment, this is what hurting people desire. They desire for others to be broken and vulnerable and to weep with them. They desire a friendly, tangible, and loving reminder, provided to them by God's ambassadors, that God cares deeply for them in the midst of their pain. That he is here, and that it's going to be OK. Through us, God is making his appeal to their hearts. Our warm, compassionate, comforting, and steadfast love, in the middle of their suffering, will be the truth that they need in their grief. God working through His people. That's right, hurting people want genuine people to come alongside them. And through our willingness to weep with those who weep, we remind and reassure those who are hurting, that even though it doesn't feel like it in the moment, their world and their joy and their hope is not lost.
For His Glory,