We all have heard the jokes about men being from Mars and women being from Venus. Or that a man’s emotional life is like a waffle and a woman’s emotional life is like spaghetti.
The reality is that for most of us men, we simply aren’t very good at identifying and processing emotion.
My tendency when my wife finds herself in a figurative emotional mud puddle is to give her several incredibly helpful things (at least I thought they were incredibly helpful). First, I help her identify how she got in the mud puddle. Second, I list for her the simple steps to take to get out of the mud puddle. And third, I explain why I don’t want to get my shoes muddy because I didn’t create the mess, but I’m here for her.
I stand, unsoiled by the mud, on the sideline and wonder why she doesn’t immediately thank me for my in-depth analysis, sage advice, and insightful explanation. I’m confused.
After 29 years of marriage, I have learned something about my wife, and most importantly about myself. Maybe there is something for you can learn in this as well. When my wife shares her heart with me and is stuck in that mud puddle, she doesn’t need me to analyze and advise and explain.
She needs me to get in the mud puddle with her. She is inviting me into a place of deep intimacy where I can sympathize with her, not fix her.
In the Biblical Greek language, the word used for “sympathize” is a compound word formed from the prefix meaning “with” attached to the word meaning “suffer.” To sympathize means to suffer with someone.
In the Bible, it is applied to Jesus Christ in Hebrews 4:15-16. It says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Isn’t that amazing? Jesus Christ suffers with us in our weaknesses, in our pain, in our suffering, in our confusion, in our disappointments.
Jesus is not standing outside of your life’s mud puddles – and some of those puddles are incredibly deep and painful and seemingly impossible to get out of.
No, Jesus enters your life and sympathizes, co-suffers, with you. He doesn’t stand on the outskirts of your pain and explain coldly how you got yourself into this mess. He doesn’t give instructions on the seven things you should do to fix it.
And He absolutely doesn’t walk away and tell you to come back to Him when you get yourself cleaned up. Jesus is right there, smackdab in the middle of the mud puddle with you.
We now have confidence to draw near to him and find mercy and grace in our time of need. Yes, He is fully God and is wrapped in resplendent glory and light. But He is fully man and is gentle and lowly at heart (Matthew 11:29).
He invites you to come to Him with all your brokenness and pain and sin and sadness – and mud puddles. He won’t reject you.
Rev. Bill McCutchen is lead pastor of Hilton Head Presbyterian Church. firstname.lastname@example.org or hiltonheadpca.com