Brainstorm representations of God in culture--movies, books, TV, songs. What’s it like to be God according to those representations?
On Sunday Justin shared this thought from social scientist Daniel Goleman:
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection.”
Do you regularly feel empathy for God? Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be Him? Have certain life circumstances made you more or less likely to feel empathy toward God? Explain. What do you think would be the practical results of knowing God better?
- Give an example of a relationship of yours that has been enhanced by practicing empathy.
What sticks out to you about the story of Jesus at Lazarus’s tomb? Is it interesting, surprising, or just what you’d expect? Do you relate to it? If so, how so?
How does it make you feel to know that God hurts when we hurt? Is it healing? Confusing? Comforting? Explain…
Take a minute and do some group meditation. Have each group member clear their minds, close their eyes and think about the story of Jesus at Lazarus’s tomb. You can speak instructions while they meditate, but speak quietly and slowly. Leave space for members to follow your directions.
Have members imagine they are bystanders in the crowd. Where are they? What do their surroundings look like? What’s the weather like? Creativity is encouraged. Encourage members to try to see yourself in the story. Have them imagine Martha as she talks to Jesus having just lost her brother and likely her provider. How would she have looked? What would she have worn? What tone of voice would she have used? Do the same for the interaction with Mary. Then imagine Jesus. How does He feel? What’s His posture like? What’s the expression on His face as he listens to the women? Now imagine Him in front of the tomb. Try to see His face as He cries. What does His voice sound like when He calls Lazarus to come out?
Directly after meditating on that moment, have members remember (still silently) a time when they were suffering. Try to put yourself back into the moment. Remember where you were, what you were wearing, etc. Then, have them imagine God’s in the room with them. What does His face look like as you suffer?
- When you’re done meditating, ask members to share any feelings or epiphanies they had while meditating.
When/where have you seen God’s love in the midst of your suffering? Share a story with the group.
What can we do to be like God in the midst of other people’s suffering? How might you hurt with the hurting in a practical, visible, helpful way? Give examples of what you could do to hurt alongside…
Those who’ve lost loved ones
Those who’ve lost a job or can’t get on their feet financially
Those whose children aren’t faithful to God
Those going through a divorce
Those dealing with life-altering diseases
Those battling mental illness
Those dealing with oppression, racism, classism, misogyny or the like
List any other ways we might hurt and corresponding ways to show empathy.
Read Nahum 1:1-2
“This is the vision God gave to Nahum, who lived in Elkosh, concerning the impending doom of Nineveh: God is jealous over those he loves; that is why he takes vengeance on those who hurt them. He furiously destroys their enemies.”
- Who/what are the enemies of God’s people today? Will God furiously destroy our enemies? If so, how?
Don’t skip this! Tonight pray a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer of supplication. First, have group members share times when God showed His love to them during their hurt. Give thanks for each one of those times. Next, have members share where they’re hurting now. Ask God to walk with them in their pain, person by person.
Watch this story from Angie Smith about God’s love and our suffering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krMXoK8MA2E