”I’m in pain! And I blame God!” The tiny woman in front of me shot off a verbal projectile the very moment I saw her. The hurt and disappointment in her eyes were overwhelming. She is such a prayer warrior, always lifting up people in need before the Lord. So, why had he not protected her? Did he not care? Why would God the Almighty want her to suffer?
I knew her well enough to know that the anger covered for the tears. Her pain was more than physical, it was spiritual. In times of great distress, we tend to create God in our own image, as someone who pulls away when life grows difficult. Who treats us as we fear we deserve. Who abandons us in our misery.
I tried to console her and relieve her pain, but she was adamant: God had treated her mercilessly and she wanted me to confirm it. No words of mine could convince her otherwise, so I didn’t try. Nor did I judge. I just provided comfort and care, knowing that’s what she needed.
After a while, the anger fizzled away and the hurt became even more apparent. “Why would God let this happen to me, Marian? Why does he allow me to be in pain?” There are no valid answers to such questions. The most obvious one about pain and evil not being from God hardly ever brings comfort or relief to the hurting. Statements about God’s comforting presence remain hollow if I am unwilling to be that physical expression of his loving embrace. It was not the time for a theological debate over the problem of evil, or meditations over the gift of suffering.
I just had to be present. Available. Willing to hear some rather interesting interpretations on the character of God. Because it didn’t matter that those observations were not true. They felt true to her in that very moment. And if there’s anything I’ve learned as a mother, it’s that I want my kids to be truthful to me, not saying what they think I want them to say, but openly sharing their rawest emotions, expressing their subjective truth. Only then can we truly connect. Heart to heart. No filters.
For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Is 57:15, NKJV
The God of the Heavens comes close to the broken. He covers the exposed and protects the vulnerable.
A different Christmas
I’ve spent quite some time in hospitals these last few weeks. I’m fine, but some of my loved ones are going through a hard time, some even needing surgery. Time slows down in hospitals. Just before Christmas, removed from the busy shopping and frenzied decorating, we have stepped into a parenthesis, a bubble, a time-free zone of raw emotions and thought-provoking silence.
Every year we decorate our Christmas tree with a new ornament to symbolize what we are most grateful for throughout the year. This year, knowing that we would be spending a few days in the hospital before Christmas, I thought I’d decorate the tree early, leaving just an empty space waiting for this year’s ornament to be revealed on Christmas Eve.
As I placed every single ornament, remembering the goodness of God in our lives, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for who he is. No matter our circumstances he is faithful. God is good. All the time. No matter what.
I would rather be transformed into God’s image, than reinventing him into mine.
Heaven to earth
Yet he came. Became like us. Heaven’s treasure wrapped in flesh. Exposed to the cold, the hurt, the sin of mankind. It wrecks me to think about why he would choose this. How he could choose us.
For we have a magnificent King-Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who rose into the heavenly realm for us, and now sympathizes with us in our frailty. He understands humanity, for as a Man, our magnificent King-Priest was tempted in every way just as we are, and conquered sin.
Hebrews 4:14-15, TPT
Embrace him. Just as you are embraced.