It’s another word that trips off the tongue, and I accept for the most part used with good intention. If you want to know how to sympathise with, or understand another you have to ‘walk a mile in his moccasins’ as the old American Indian saying goes, and how simple and true.
I believe we all want to receive kind words of understanding and empathy from our friends, but true understanding comes at a cost. If you really want to know how someone feels, or what they are going through, it is best that you have walked that road yourself. Sometimes, happily, those tough times have not been ours to endure. We can thank God for preserving us from certain trials that have been placed on others. We may sympathise in good heart, but we cannot truly understand.
I was privileged to meet a Godly lady who had suffered a life threatening stroke some 13 years ago, and her road back to some kind of life has been slow, deliberate and hard beyond my understanding. Her face shone with the love of God, but she still does not have control of most of her body. I was humbled to be in her company. I would have loved to be able to say to her and her loving husband, ‘I understand what you are going through’, but I couldn’t. With God’s grace I may be able to sympathise, but I cannot fully understand. To pretend otherwise is an affront to the Spirit of God that lives in her, and would also be an embarrassment on a human level.
Let us use our words carefully, and take extra care as we meet others who have problems to carry, which we do not. I have found that the strongest witness comes from the one who suffers, and there is nothing I can say that helps. My last thought is this: If you have been through a difficult time, or have suffered a serious health issue, you are in a unique and special place to use those experiences to help others who are going through that same valley. Maybe, God has placed you there for a reason, perhaps as a witness and help to a vulnerable body and Spirit. Then, and only then, can you truly say, ‘I understand’, and may God Bless you as you use the experience of your own trouble with those who desperately need to hear it!