For several years, our marriage was a battle ground, mostly uphill battles. Those times were hard; I felt alone, desperate, unsure. Marriages are hard even when they are easy, if that makes sense. But, when they are hard, they are a whole new level of hard. I remember having to tell myself to breathe.

Once I facilitated a discussion at a women’s conference and shared how I had felt and what had gotten me through those difficult years. After the conference dismissed, a pair of friends from my table stayed behind. Each of them shared the pieces of my story that resonated with them. Our “likeness” was a “You are Welcome Here” sign signaling that understanding and empathy awaited.

When we are hurt, lost, confused, or just needing encouragement, we gravitate to people who have been there, done that, and somehow have come out on the other side. The ones who are most LIKE US – who have a story (or a chapter in their story) most like ours. They can instantly relate – lengthy explanations aren’t needed. It means we can trust their words and hugs more deeply than someone just doling out sympathy. The words “I can relate” hold an incredible amount of value. There is no stand in for empathy.

Hebrews 5:7 says, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him was was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”

Jesus was covered in flesh. He was human. Inside and out. Blood running through his veins. Heartache when he saw a tragedy. Hunger pains when the next meal was a little too delayed. Sadness when he was rejected. He was LIKE US.

When Jesus seems a little far away from the situation you are battling…
When Jesus seems unapproachable because what you are carrying is too deep, too hard, too shameful…
When Jesus seems to be a difficult place to land because He lived too perfectly…

Take heart. Jesus and His throne of grace (Heb 4:16)are the very best place to bring our hurt, brokenness, fear and questions. Is it a too hard to accept this “Sunday school” answer? Here are three reasons why coming to Jesus is best:

  1. Jesus is LIKE US in facing the cost of obedience.
    Our obedience may cost us friendships, sleep, the approval of family members, a job promotion, even a condescending look or two from fellow churchgoers. In these moments of loss, Jesus identifies. He moved from obeying without any suffering to obeying through unspeakable suffering. (Piper) In the moments leading up to Calvary and as he hung crucified, Jesus lost friends, comfort, acceptance, modesty, even abandonment by his Father (Matthew 27:28-30, 46; Mark 15:24, 29; Luke 23:35, 44-46; John 18:17).

Because Jesus endured the high costs of obedience, he breathes enduring hope into us even when the stakes are high.

  1. Jesus is LIKE US in experiencing emotions.
    Our human emotions take us all over the map – from the highs of delight in our parenting, to the concern faced with unexpected illness, to the depths of grief over broken relationships and shame. In his flesh, Jesus FELT. He marveled (Matthew 8:10); he groaned and wept (John 11:33-36); he bellowed loud cries and shed tears (Hebrews 5:7).

When we cry out to the Lord full of emotion, Jesus feels with us because he has felt for himself.

  1. Jesus is LIKE US in knowing Christian prayer offers what the world cannot.
    When the demands pressed in, Jesus prayed (Luke 5:16). In preparation for great tasks, Jesus prayed (Mark 1:35-38). When extra strength and endurance were needed for those he loved, Jesus prayed (Luke 22:32). When he despaired, Jesus prayed (Matthew 26:39). Even though Jesus is fully God, “in the days of his flesh” he stayed connected to God through prayer.

Since he personally knew the need, value, and promise of prayer, he is our example and encouragement to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

In his kindness, God the Father knew that we needed someone LIKE US to love us and save us. He knew and knows that Jesus is our best answer to receive mercy and find grace because Jesus faced what we face. Jesus offers empathy, not just sympathy, so we can let our guard down and fall at his feet with all that we carry. He understands. He faced all the discouragement, abandonment, grief, difficulty the world threw at him and he did so without any sin entering in.

A few weeks ago a dear friend confided in me about her marriage troubles. She hasn’t spoken to another soul about what she’s going through, but she knew I had been there. She knew the sign above our friendship would read, “You are Welcome Here,” so she came on in. Friend, Jesus can handle your weary arms and feeble knees, your discouraged heart, and your racing mind. You don’t have to accurately explain all that’s wrapped up in them because Jesus knows. His story has many chapters that are just LIKE YOURS and that means you’re welcome and safe at his throne of grace.