“I know what you’re going through. I know how it feels.” No matter how well-intentioned, these words can sometimes sound hollow. Your world has been turned upside down, you’re just trying to put one foot in front of another, and someone says, “I know what you’re going through.” I have heard those words myself, and said them, but they can come across as empty. But then you look at Scripture and see that Jesus knows exactly what you’re going through and knows just how it feels. What’s more, Jesus can help.
There is a beautiful scripture that sounds a lot like a line in an old spiritual: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.” Yes, Jesus knows. We see this in Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Notice that the text says that we “do not” have a high priest “unable to sympathize with our weaknesses”. Take that as a negative with a real positive reality, that is, Jesus can sympathize with us even in our weaknesses.
Our word “sympathize” is actually a Greek loanword. It is a compound word putting together “syn” = “together” + “pathos” = “feeling”, meaning, “feeling together”. Jesus does not only know the facts of what you are going through but is feeling together with you. There is no part of your life, your struggles, your pains, and yes, your weaknesses, but that Jesus can say to you at this moment: “I feel what you’re going through. I understand.”
When you feel rejected by someone, Jesus understands. When you stand by a grave and weep, Jesus is moved to tears with you. The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined God as “the unmoved mover”, and sadly that is how many people think of God today. They picture Him as high up there in His heaven unmoved by what people face today. With no apologies to Aristotle, God is the Moved Mover, deeply moved by what you are going through.
As a father, I have often felt for my sons and the pains they were experiencing. I can say that there were times I really did suffer with them. But the Son of God came to earth taking our flesh to Himself so that He is in us and we in Him. That is how Jesus was able to take our sins as His own, and how His righteousness is made our righteousness. Being one with us, Jesus can truly sympathize with our “weaknesses”.
The Greek word translated “weaknesses” is astheneia, meaning “feeble”, “lack of strength”, “frailty”, and “ill health”. This means that Jesus is not put off by our weaknesses or frailties. The Hebrews text says that Jesus “in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” He has truly been where we are, truly understands, and truly cares.
I had a professor who suggested that at the bottom of every sermon to write two words: “So what?” The “So what?” of this wonderful passage is this: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Isn’t it interesting that God’s throne is called “the throne of grace” rather than a throne of judgment! Through Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God’s family and made His beloved children so that “we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
This is the “So what?”, the bottom line of encouragement in Christ for troubled times!
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.Philippians 2: 1-2