Sympathy, Who Needs It?


I’m nothing but skin and bones. I’ve only escaped by the skin of my teeth.  “Have pity on me, my friends! Please have pity!
~Job 19:2-21, NIRV


The purpose of life is to serve, to show compassion and to help others
~Albert Schweitzer

Every person sins; every person has regrets and every persons wants sympathy. The only exception I can think of would be some form of mental retardation in which case a person would never advance beyond the innocence of a small child. The book of Job is a book of speeches and I think chapter 19 is Job’s best speech. He literally begs his friends for sympathy and they give him none. Matter of fact, all they gave Job was more sorrow. They gave him their hollow advice which was worthless. They gave him their opinions, that God was punishing him for his sin, the sin he was too proud to confess. They didn’t give him money and they didn’t give him sympathy. Advice is cheap; the world is filled with people who will give you advice. James talks about the folks who are generous with advice but selfish with their resources…Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? {What a hypocrite!}

Sympathy is feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. It is a kin to compassion or empathy. It is the concern we have for others that overrides our personal pain or interest. People who are all wrapped up in themselves and their misfortune cannot give sympathy to others. Since some cannot give it, they pretend they don’t need it but we all need sympathy. I’m not going to lie, I will take all I can get. Sympathy is like money, you are not going to talk folks out of it so you need not worry about getting too much. We live in a sin scared, sin twisted, sin mangled world and our communities are littered with hurting people. Just this week a lady and I were talking and she broke down and began to cry. She is broken hearted. Her only child is caught in the painful web of divorce. He is broken hearted and so is she. I sat down and listened to her story and then I prayed with her. She has my sympathy.

So why are people so miserly when it comes to sympathy? I think insecurity plays a big part. You cannot give sympathy without giving yourself and that terrifies the insecure. Probably the main reason is just pure selfishness: we do not love our neighbor as we love our self. Long story short, we don’t care! We are cold and callous when it comes to the pain of others. Pride is also a factor: Job’s friends were filled with pride. In their minds, Job deserved to suffer. He was simply reaping what he had sown. Job’s friends were full of BS. You probably have some friends like Job’s, you think?

You may bump into someone today who needs a sympathetic ear. Do you have the ability to give sympathy? It is a vital ministry in a hurting world. All you have to do is put your life on hold for a few minutes and listen; then respond with sympathy not advice.

If you are traveling South, by-pass Birmingham. It took us two hours to go from Gardendale to Pellum. I have never seen anything like it. No wrecks, just too many vehicles on too little roads.

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