Someone has hurt you – badly. Or you face a really tough decision. Or something happens to rock you to your very core. You take the risk and tell one of your church friends, and they respond, “I’ll be praying for you.”
And you want to SCREAM!
It’s not that praying is bad. It’s good. Very good. But it’s like they expect offering a prayer takes them off the hook. They can feel they’ve done their Christian duty while you’re left dying under the crushing load.
When your spouse walks out you don’t need someone to quote Scripture to you. When you just found out your son or daughter is sexually active with a same-sex partner you don’t need to be encouraged to go to church. When you just heard the word “cancer” from your doctor an “I’ll pray for you” doesn’t go very far. When your spouse or child just died a pat on the back with a “God will be with you” is just empty.
I’m on a bit of a rant today. I’ve recently been touched by two different Christian friends whose marriages were lost through no obvious fault of their own. I’ve wrestled with my own healing from grief after the loss of my husband Al a few months ago. And I’ve heard a few truly ugly stories from you, my readers, about what look like truly impossible situations.
At such times the standard Christian platitudes just don’t work. It’s not that they’re wrong; it’s that they’re not enough.
One of my friends was tearful after sharing a moment of his pain, and I responded: “If the gospel can’t deal with this, then what good is it?!”
God With Us
What is the kingdom of God really all about? Why did Jesus come here? Why are we trying to live this Christian life anyway?
Jesus didn’t come to wave a magic wand over us and our world to make things OK. He didn’t come to stand on the top of a mountain and shout out God’s propositional truths for us to hear. He didn’t come to appease the wrath of some vengeful angry God.
No, none of that. The angel said it this way: “they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”” (Matthew 1:23)
He came to be WITH US! He went through the experience of being born a human being, entering the world through Mary’s birth canal. If you’ve ever given birth or watched a child being born, can you imagine what it was like for the God of the universe, the One who spoke worlds into existence, to come into His own world that way?
But that was only the beginning. “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) He was with – truly with – Mary and Martha when they grieved over the death of their brother Lazarus. He was with – truly with – the disciples as they feared for their lives on the Sea of Galilee. He was with – truly with – the woman caught in adultery, and the woman at the well living in “serial monogamy.”
And He is with you right now.
When He is with us things happen. We cannot stay the same when He is here. Healing happens. Bondages are broken. Lives are transformed.
But it has nothing to do with statements of religious fact, as important as those may be. Change happens, healing happens, salvation happens, when God With Us is here!
Are YOU With Us?
What does that say to those of us who want to help others?
When will we:
- Be with the man or woman whose spouse has just left?
- Be with the parent whose child is broken and estranged?
- Be with the one struggling with sexual identity?
- Be with the one fighting a battle with serious illness?
- Be with the parent or spouse or child whose loved one has died?
Being with is messy. It’s uncomfortable, painful, sometimes confusing and overwhelming. But it’s the only way.
Being with doesn’t mean saying “I’ll pray for you;” it means taking someone’s hand, and blending your tears with theirs while you bring them before God. Instead of saying “God’s word has the answer,” it means calling or texting them at odd times until they truly get the message that you want to hear from them when they are struggling. Rather than saying “Go to church,” it means saying “I’ll pick you up and we can sit together. Then we’ll go for coffee and you can talk if you want.”
If you’re one of those who is struggling, you know how important it is for someone to be with you, not just to speak at you.
And if you’re one who wants to care, you know how intimidating it can feel to risk truly being with someone in need.
In times of need people often need “God with skin on,” a human being who can be “God in the flesh” to them at that moment.
No, we won’t do it perfectly. But until and unless we risk truly being WITH people in need, real transformation, healing, and growth will not happen.
Those who are struggling cannot remain where they are. God is the Healer. Jesus is the Savior. Transformation must happen. But the way it happens is God With Us – and through you and me being the intermediate step of “God with skin on” for those who need it.
Will you be “God with skin on” for someone today? Will you help them experience God With Us?
Your Turn: Who is God calling you to be with today? Leave a comment below.
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