2 Corinthians 11:27-29
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.…
Many-sidedness, which is an invariable characteristic of all really great men, was indisputably a feature in St. Paul. No doubt it has risks and disadvantages. There is the chance of shallowness. It is often, and with supreme unfairness, identified with insincerity. Capriciousness, too, is imputed to these large and sensitive natures, because we cannot always find them in the same mood. Perhaps that one feature of nature which has done more than any other to conciliate the affection of the Church is sympathy. Sympathy is feeling with others, and it is quite a distinct thing from feeling for them. The latter is more of a quick and evanescent sentiment, good as far as it goes, but not often going far. Sympathy is a habit, or temper of mind, which means prayer and effort and sacrifice. Let us first select certain types of circumstance which sympathy springs to meet.
1. First, let us not forget our apostle's precept, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice," and not be so ignorant as to suppose that men do not value sympathy with happiness, though they may need it more in sorrow. All conditions of life, as well as all classes of men, claim and appreciate sympathy. Our Lord's presence at the marriage feast at Cana, as well as at the feast at Bethany after the raising of His friend Lazarus, is an instance in point. Disappointment and wounded self-love may occasionally have something to do with our lack of sympathy in a friend's happiness, but thoughtlessness and a certain lazy selfishness have more.
2. There are difficulties in religion, where honest and even reverent souls demand sympathy and do not always get it. Nothing so tends to discourage, or harden, or anger men into actual unbelief as a cold, harsh, dogmatic treatment of their difficulties. Sympathy here, indeed, must be prudent and frank.
3. It is hardly necessary to add how needful and blessed in hours of personal sorrow is the felt sympathy of a friend. People who don't know are apt, by way of excusing themselves for negligence, to allege that sympathy at such times has no real value. Little they know about it. Here, again, we must premise that true sympathy has nothing morbid or softening about it. It braces, while it sighs; it points to Christ, instead of leaning on man. If it means tact and skill, it also means courage and power. In conclusion, let us say other things about sympathy. No doubt there are some people in whom it is a born instinct; so to speak, it is neither hard for them nor easy. It is a matter of course, for it is a part of themselves. Yet, even in them, it needs educating and disciplining by experience. Then let us be careful how, with the best meaning possible, we express sympathy with troubles and losses of which we have no sort of personal knowledge, thereby, it may be, making our kindly intended consolations clumsy, ludricrous, or even painful. Let us leave it to those who do know what they are doing, and so avoid the danger of making a second wound in our attempt to heal the first. Once more, no quality of the soul, when it is genuine and ripe and wise, is so gratefully accepted, so tenderly cherished, so lavishly repaid, as this grace of sympathy, and it does not need money, talent, cleverness — only the presence of love. The love of God and the love of man react upon each other.
Parallel VersesKJV: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
WEB: in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness.