It’s so easy to fail to sympathize with those who struggle in areas we don’t.
Before my dad got saved, he smoked for 20 years. One day, he decided to quit and did – just like that – no struggles, relapses, or cravings. He couldn’t understand how anyone could struggle to quit. (He gave me permission to share this). He’d say, “I don’t see why people can’t stop. I just decided to quit and, boom, never had another cigarette. It was easy.”
I, on the other hand, tried to quit numerous times and failed repeatedly. Once a friend and I decided we’d quit by making ourselves sick, so we each stuck 5 cigarettes in our mouth, lit and smoked them all at once. By the time we finished, we’d cursed Sir Walter Raleigh. We drove downtown and threw our packs out in a back alley, certain we were now smoke-free.
Next day, I was scouring the alley for my pitched smokes. Eventually I did quit, but I can sure sympathize with those who struggle.
Jesus can sympathize with our struggles, for he too knows what it’s like. Hebrews 4:15 says:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus knows what temptation feels like. He endured the worst Satan could throw at him for 33 years without caving in. We can’t imagine the force of temptation Jesus bore, for we often give in so quickly.
Imagine 3 soldiers are captured and interrogated. First, the captors promise pleasure. Give us the information we want and we’ll give you wine, women, and song. Soldier #1 holds out for a while, then gives in. Next, the captors use torture. Soldier #2 endures a few hours, then spills his guts. Soldier #3 is beaten and battered, placed in solitary, and subjected to every conceivable torture for years but never breaks. Who endured the most? Jesus is like the last one – he bore the full force of Satan’s temptations for 33 years yet never gave in.
Jesus knows what it’s like to be tempted to lust, despair, and anger. He was tempted to pride, selfishness, fear, apathy, and unbelief. He’s been there.
That’s why Hebrews urges us to come to him with confidence. Jesus is sympathetic. He won’t say, “What? How could you fail again? You just decide to quit lusting and you quit – boom – just like that. I don’t know why you’re struggling so much to forgive that person. Just do it! Buck up!”
No, he’s been there. So draw near to Jesus – pray – seek him. He’s ready to help us in our weaknesses.