"So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." – Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)
We all go through a lot of different circumstance in our lives that are hard, uncomfortable, and disheartening which can make us feel isolated and as though no one really understands. I've been there and I am certain you have too. All we ever really want in those tough times is for someone to see us and hear us. We want to know that we aren't alone; if someone else has made it through, certainly we could too!
That's why this Bible verse from Hebrews is so wonderful! Jesus, our High Priest, came down to this world and experienced all that we are to experience (from joy to fear and even death). He can plead for us to the Father because of His experience and He is able to comfort us and understand our weaknesses because of all He has gone through.
When we look at our own lives and our experiences (some of which we wish we could skip over or forget ever happened to us, we also have the incredible opportunity to pick out the areas in which we now have the ability to love others better (with comfort, understanding, and aid) that we would not have had if we had not experienced such events, emotions, and lessons in our life. Here are a few ways that our experiences bring us closer to Jesus and others.
Our experiences help us to see Jesus for who He is. In the above passage from Hebrews, it says that Jesus faced every testing we have in life and still He was perfect and did not sin. Could we say the same for us Certainly not! Not a single one of us has gone through this life without sinning and to say that you have would be a sin in itself, because it is a lie. Jesus is the only one that has and we know how hard that is to achieve. This helps us put the power and perfection of Jesus into perspective and it should fill us all with gratitude as we think about where we have fallen short and how Jesus has taken that sin upon His perfect self as well.
Our experiences help us to have empathy for others. There are so many situations where I wish I could just go back and not be in such a position or not do the wrong things. Though, ideally, life (and us) should be full of happy days with not a cloud in sight, that is not ever the case and what we go through should and can always be used to grow us. One of the ways they may do so is in our empathy for others. We know what they are going through because we have gone through the same thing (or similar) too. We know how hard it is and the wrong decisions we, ourselves, have made. We put place ourselves in the shoes of others, we can be empathic of their struggles just as Jesus is with us.
Our experiences give us the ability help. Whether this be help through comfort, material items, or advice, we know what is needed at a certain time when we have shared the experience of another. We go through many of our experiences alone, but wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to. Instead of avoiding what we have been through, why not embrace it as a necessary stepping stone that has helped equip us to jump into battle when others cry out? Step into the role you wish someone else would have stepped into when you were in the same situation. If you do this, you will find that you are growing closer to others and Jesus as you begin to become the hands and feet of God in this world.
Our experiences make us both softer AND stronger. This might seem like two conflicting things, but if you really think about it, you need both to draw close to God and others. Being soft, in this sense, is the ability to be even tempered, calm, and balanced with a clear mind and good reasoning. Being strong means you are battle-worn and up for the fight, being able to resist the devil and his schemes. Both are necessary. We want to be soft with others (and ourselves), we want to be strong when times get tough or when Jesus needs us most. Our experiences, if we allow them, will yield both.
We are all part of this world full of highs and lows, ups and down. There are so many things that we experience that can leave us feeling lost and alone; yet, if we look past our pain, sadness, or fears, we will find that these experience (rather than pushing us away from Jesus and others) can actually bring us closer to them! The question is: will you let them?