In the past few weeks or months, have you been going through a hard time of your own, unrelated to the national and international crises in the world? During pandemics and social unrest, the other troubles in life keep coming – from water leaks to anxiety disorders, vet visits to loneliness, broken relationships to cancer diagnoses. It may feel as if there is no place to talk about your struggle, while the whole world seems to be crying out in pain. You may reason that your trouble is not worth mentioning in light of other events. “We compare our suffering to that of others, and deny ourselves permission to feel,” says Brene Brown, but suppressed feelings only deepen, grow, and invite shame. In reality, “The way to ensure that you have a reserve of compassion and empathy for others is to attend to your own feelings.”

How can you attend to your own emotions? You may be able to take time out for self care, or find a listening ear, but then again you may not in the current circumstances. The outlet that is always available is the same one used by King David while hiding in caves, and the apostle Paul while living in a prison cell: you can acknowledge your feelings and pour them out to your heavenly Father. You will find as the Psalmist did that He bends down to listen to every word (Psalm 116:1,2), that amidst all the affliction clamoring for His attention He sees and knows every detail of your struggle (Genesis 16, Psalm 34, Isaiah 40), and that when you bring it to Him He will fill you with grace to endure (Hebrews 4:15,16). You’ll no longer be drawing on your own strength to bear your burdens and love your people – you’ll be drawing from the infinite well of His power and love.

After a talk with Him, you’ll find yourself ready again to extend empathy to others. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God,” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4, NIV). I pray that you will find and then echo His comfort today.