Understanding Empathy (Bearing One Another’s Burdens)Family journey . Katie
When I was a little girl, around the age of ten. I heard a preacher speak on prayer and carrying one another’s burdens. He was very passionate and I remember going home and asking God to let me carry others burdens. I had a friend whose mother had cancer, and was constantly in pain. I remember telling God that I would be willing to take the pain from her even if it was only for a day, if it would give her just a little relief. I am not sure why or how I became so aware of this desire to carry others pain and sorrow. But, I think there is a good chance that it is a genetic gifting. I believe strongly that we are genetically predisposed to certain gifts. I do also strongly believe that Yehovah God gives us extra-ordinary gifting’s at times for a season in life. But as far back as I can remember I have had a desire to relieve others pain, to have a true understanding of what they are going through, and a compassion to go through it with them.
This is not of my own desire, but I can only say it is truly a gift from God. Sometimes empathy is a feeling (emotion) that is picked up by the people around us. Sometimes empathy is actual physical pain or ailments we feel for others. As a child, I didn’t truly understand why I felt sick all the time, and often doctors would tell my mom it was all in my head. But, she knew it was more than that.
When I began having children, I recognized in some of my children the gift of empathy. They would go to group activities with other children, sports, family reunions, church, etc. and come home a mess. They didn’t often even know why they felt so out of sorts. They were feeling the feelings of the people around them, and not understanding how to respond to those feelings.
I think I first started to really understand where all my feelings and sicknesses where coming from after I got married. I was working as a habilitation instructor, and working in group homes with special needs people. I would become so sad, depressed, and exhausted that I actually became so sick my body started shutting down. My parents had done a really good job of caring for me until I left home at age 20, that I really didn’t realize how overwhelming the world was. I felt the grief, anxiety, and pain of everyone I worked with, all my clients, and I just didn’t know how to help any of them, or myself.
It would be many years later, that I really understood that God just wanted me to love them and pray for them.
Empathy is not some kind of psychological illness, it is not some kind of psychic power, and it isn’t a mind trick. It is a spiritual gift that is given from God to people to help them understand and have compassion for others and to carry their burdens to Him in prayer. I have to admit I don’t always love this gift.
I am not sure how this works for other people. But most of the time the people closest to me, that I pray for daily, I tend to feel their physical and emotional pains most. This can be annoying because if my husband is sick, I don’t want to be sick too. If I am sick who is going to care for the kids and house. When my mom is sick and needs me it is a terrible time to also be sick.
But, I have learned that God knows best, and He has a reason for everything.
Sometimes I run from my gifting. For example, this past week. I spent a week with our whole church camping. I almost immediately began to realize many of their spiritual pains, emotional needs, and physical pains. I began praying for each person and my heart, mind, and body acknowledged the needs of the people. But, about half way through the week, the elders decided to hold a healing service. I was already feeling quit drained and exhausted, so I didn’t want to do to the service. I knew my health issues were not in need of prayer for they were given to me so I could carry the burden of others in prayer. I just didn’t think I could do much more. But, God prompted me to go over to the prayer meeting. As I entered into the building I immediately felt the needs. Their were many, and there was so much hidden pain in the room. I honestly, thought about walking right back out the door I came in. I know, that is totally selfish. But, sometimes, I hate being that weird, loud, praying lady. I hope God isn’t disappointed in me admitting that. I really am grateful that He has chosen to use me in others lives. I just sometimes feel so weird and out of place.
Empathy is real. I get really sick when my best friend gets sick. I get really depressed when my mom is depressed. I get really sick when I pray specifically for a friends asthma and allergies. I get really anxious when someone I am praying for is struggling with anxiety. Sometimes I can walk in a room and a complete stranger will be in pain, and it suddenly is my pain too. I asked God to help me pray for those who are suffering when I was a ten year old girl. He has answered that prayer. The important thing to learn as an empath is that it is NOT your sickness, it is NOT your mental illness, it is NOT your spiritual battle. It belongs to the person your praying for and you are there to help them through it through prayer. Just like the angels, God will use us to carry one another in love.
The reason I am sharing this today is for those who may be gifted as an empath and not realize it. You might wonder, why am I always sick or depressed, yet I know that I am a child of God. Maybe you are struggling with conflicting thoughts and feelings. If that is you, I want you to know that you can find the place of acceptance and peace.
Once I learned to walk in obedience to God despite how I felt, He began to make it clear to me that my trials where not always my own. I am not saying that I don’t have trials or illnesses of my own. But what I am saying is we are all connected. God may have given you a special gift to help you pray for others in a very real way. Maybe you have sleepless nights, and wonder why. It could be that God wants you to be in prayer. Maybe you have anxiety that doesn’t make sense, maybe God wants you to pray. Whatever it is…
IF you are walking close to God and seeking Him with your whole heart, mind, body, and soul then maybe you are being called to carry the burdens of others. You can do it. Just trust and obey.
The most important thing a person with the gift of empathy can do is keep Sabbath. This has been a huge break through in my life. Once I truly understood that the seventh day was set aside for man (me) to rest in the knowledge of my Creator and Redeemer, I began to realize I didn’t have to go into the pit of disappear from all the pain, sorrow, and anxiety in this world, in our lives. Sabbath has become my grounding place to allow me to physically, emotionally, and spiritually rest and reset. Before keeping Sabbath, I struggled with depression, chronic fatigue, and so much more. Now, I still have sickness and illness, and sadness, but they do NOT consume me.
Sabbath is the answer to how we carry the burdens of this world without being crushed to death. Sabbath is the time when we are to lay all those burdens down and just rest in Yehovah and His promises.
I hope this blog encourages someone. I hesitate to even post it, but maybe it is just what you needed to read today.
Written by Katie
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