1 Timothy 4
I think I started this “study” with the perspective of engaging with Relational Wisdom for how I can teach and train my orientation students. But, as I have been reading and studying, I am seeing that I need to grow in these things myself.
As I read the Lord is challenging me that I don’t do very well at empathizing with people. In 1 Tim 4:8-10 Paul reminds Timothy that physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better. It promises benefits in this life (for myself, and for those I serve) but also benefits in the life to come. I need to do what Paul says of himself, “We work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God.”
I also want Paul’s encouragement of Timothy to be true of my life, (1 Tim 4:12) “Be example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, your purity..”
I love the short little youtube video by Brene Brown on Empathy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw). She does such a great job at illustrating the difference between sympathy and empathy. Empathy is climbing down into the hole with the person and feeling what they feel. In the Relationship Press’ “Emotional Fitness,” materials they define empathy as “The ability to discern emotions in others and then to experience, within ourselves, the same emotions. It goes beyond sympathy, which is simply a mental awareness of the general plight of another person without any sacrificial sharing in what is being felt”
Here’s a couple examples of my ineptness this week:
- Robin has been sick for about a week. It’s only a cough, but it’s just been hanging on. As it continues, instead empathizing and comforting her in it, I got annoyed.
- One of our e2 family with 3 children under the age of 3 and is struggling to manage life. As I see them get stressed and overwhelmed, instead of entering their pain, I think, “If they’d just do this or that, it would relieve their stress and help them to manage life better.”
In the book Instruments in the Redeemers Hands, chapter 7 and 8 Paul Tripp addresses this idea also.
In Chapter 7 he talks about “Building Relationship by Entering Their World.” Here’s a couple things that have challenged me:
We can focus on the problem and miss the person in the middle of it. Biblical personal ministry certainly includes problem solving, but it must be person-focused. God’s work of change certainly involves changes in situation and relationship, but it has radical personal transformation as its core goal.
“This person understands me. I want more of this kind of help.” This is the power of a loving relationship. So an entry gate into their world is not the objective problem a person has encountered, but his particular experience of that problem (fear, anger, guilt, anxiety, hopelessness, aloneness, envy, discouragement, desires for vengeance, etc.).
Many of us offer care that doesn’t cure because, from the outset, our eyes are so focused on the problem that we miss the person and the struggles within.
Then in chapter 8 he talks about Building Relationship by Identifying with suffering:
We are not what people need. Our purpose is to connect them to a living, active, redeeming Christ. He gives them what they need so that they can do what they have been called to do amid the difficulties of life. I am nothing more than a brother. I stand alongside you and point you to the Father. I stand next to you and tell you stories of his amazing love and care. I share with you the things I have learned on his lap and at his feet. I take your hand and walk with you to him. As brothers and sisters we put the focus where it must be—on our all-wise, almighty, and ever-present Father.
A humble identity as a brother-in-process also helps my life to be an example. We, too, have to control our thoughts and rein in our desires. The more we are honest about who we are, the more we are willing to stand alongside people and not above them, the more our lives will offer hope.
1 Tim 4:15 Paul instructs Timothy to “Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”
Declarations and Prayer:
- I am not what people need. My purpose is to connect them to a living, active, redeeming Christ. He gives them what they need!
- I want to focus more on the person than the problem. Lord, help me not miss the person in the middle of their problems.
- I am not above my students, I stand next to them so I can tell you stories of his amazing love and care.
- They need to hear the things I have learned on his lap and at his feet. My job is to take their hand and walk with them to him. To lead them to put their focus where it must be—on our all-wise, almighty, and ever-present Father.
Please pray for me as I seek the Lord to grow in these things.