Pain Olympics

I have no sympathy for you.”

Have you ever heard or even “felt” these words? I have. It was awful to be on the receiving end of such a callous response.

God never treats His children this way. Like EVER. There is no “Pain Olympics” in God’s Kingdom where we have to meet or surpass some sort of arbitrary threshold of pain before God’s compassion is roused.

In fact, even if the pain we experience is our fault (aka the consequences of our sin), Jesus is still there to listen to our heartache and give loving advice. Remember the woman at the well? When Jesus met her, she had been married multiple times and was living “in sin” with another guy. Jesus didn’t lecture or condemn the woman for making poor choices. He listened. Jesus cared. His grace changed her life.

I have no sympathy for you.” These are not the humble words of children redeemed by undeserved grace. These dismissive words come from of a place of pride, jealousy, or bitterness.

Know what though? I’ve said these words. I’ve thought these words. Like the Pharisee in the temple who said, “At least I am not like that guy!”, I’ve turned up my nose at another struggling human being. God forgive me for forgetting about all the grace He’s given me.

How about these hurtful responses?

Good grief, first world problems.” <–Insert eyeroll here. (All of us want to be seen and validated. We are allowed to be overwhelmed or have bad days even if we live in a beautiful two-story home with our spouse, two kids, and golden retriever. We know there are starving children in Africa who deserve our prayers and generosity, but that doesn’t mean we are less deserving of a caring ear and a sympathetic response when we are truly struggling.)

What’s the big deal?” (Trivializing another’s stress and pain is ignorant. Only God knows the full picture. Only Jesus knows our full stories. We need to stop making rash ill-informed judgments of other people.)

Get over it already.” (Some people are born with more grit and resilience than others. If you happen to be one of those people who bounce back quickly after a setback or loss, thank Jesus that He gave you that kind of spirit.

One time, this guy I worked with was bragging about how he had never been sick in over three years. As he talked, I discerned that this gentlemen was silently judging co-workers for being ill and calling into work. When he walked away from my desk, I thought to myself, “God gave this man a wonderful immune system that wasn’t given to the rest of us. He should be grateful for his stellar health and not prideful about it… ‘cuz you know what they say… pride comes before a fall!” Wouldn’t you know it? A couple of weeks later, this guy was out sick for days with a terrible stomach bug.

I myself never understood depression, so I had a major lack of compassion for folks who seemed constantly bogged down and sad. However, Jesus allowed me to experience a season of crushing despair. It humbled me for good. Never again will I judge someone for not having the optimism and positivity God graciously wove into my DNA.

“At least you don’t have to go through what I am going through.” (One-upping is selfish, and well, just not nice!)

Finally, the second greatest commandment is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we say, “I have no sympathy for you,” we are not loving our neighbor.

Jesus’s compassion for us drove Him to leave His heavenly abode to not only dwell with us, but also to die on a cross for our mistakes. When the people of earth cried out in brokenness from the tragedies of their sin, God could have justly said, “They are only getting what they deserve. I have no sympathy for you.

He did not respond this way. Instead He loved us before we even thought to love Him. Jesus chose to be the great High Priest Who experienced rejection, loss, pain, and grief. Therefore, we can boldly approach His throne of grace to be heard, validated, sympathized with, and healed. I am thankful to serve a King like that.

We all should want to be like that.