The Oxford dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand another person’s feelings, experience, etc.”. The Bible might not use the English word empathy, but has required it of Christians all along already. Romans 12:15 must be one of the most practical explanations of empathy.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15 (ESV)

When others are happy, be happy with them. When there is a moment of great blessing, joy, excitement, and celebration in another’s life, share in it with them. Share in their joy as though it was your own. You might be tempted to let your trials be a sober balance to their joy, but that is not empathy. Empathy will rejoice when others rejoice in spite of great personal trial. In fact, you will find that the Lord often schedules blessing for those close to you in your moment of trial so you will look beyond yourself and see God’s purposes in all of life, not just in your own life.

The same is true when the tables are turned. When others are sad, be sad with them. When there is a moment of great trial, sorrow, discouragement, and suffering in another’s life, share in it with them. Share in the weeping as though it was your own. You might be tempted to let your blessings be a joyful balance to their sorrow, but that is not empathy. Empathy will weep when others weep in spite of great personal blessing. In fact, you will find that the Lord often schedules hardship for those close to you in your moment of joy so you will look beyond yourself and see God’s purposes in all of life, not just in your own life.

As they saying goes, put yourself in their shoes. Feel what they feel. Be it weeping or rejoicing, come alongside each other with empathy.