God has been doing some fabulous things in my church lately. His Spirit has moved strongly there in the past several weeks. About three weeks ago, I told my pastor I had officially moved out of my spiritual desert and into the rain forest of the Spirit. I had so much peace, so much life, so much joy! And then…
Last week arrived. Suddenly I was fighting migraines nearly every day. I woke up every morning feeling exhausted, bored, and restless. Then the old thorn in my side got twisted around a few times. I tried to resist it, but my mind caved to the chaos. I began to lose hope that God would ever bring me into the vision He had for my life, and depression threatened to overwhelm me. By Sunday, I was an emotional wreck. I limped to the altar and sobbed my eyes out. I can’t remember the last time I felt so genuinely heartbroken.
In that service, God spoke to my heart and told me two things:
1. “The problem is, you don’t know how to walk in the rain forest. To stay in the rain forest–to move into your purpose–you must devote yourself to deeper prayer and study. I have been telling you this, but you haven’t done it. You’re stubborn.”
2. “What does my Word say? ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’ (Matthew 5:4). My daughter, I am right here.”
One of the most common arguments I’ve heard against the existence of God is the ongoing suffering of humanity. And the case has only been exacerbated by the teachings of many Christian ministers. The mindset has been that anytime something bad happens in the world, it’s evidence that God is angry about something. We haven’t done enough to outlaw abortion. We allowed homosexuals to get married. We elected a democrat to the White House. So the result is that God sends a massive tsunami/earthquake/tornado to wipe a few people off the map–like a petulant toddler who didn’t get juice in his sippy cup. And then we get angry at God for our suffering and wonder why He feels so far away.
But He isn’t far away. We just assume He is.
One of Jesus’ titles is The Great Physician. And there’s something I’ve noticed about people who work in health care: They are drawn to the sick and hurting. Doctors and nurses can put in 14 hours a day treating the ill, yet if they see someone collapse at the grocery store or on an airplane during their off time, they immediately rush over to help. “Let me through!” they say. “I’m a doctor! I know what to do!” And those of us who are standing around the victim will clear a space for the physician, because we welcome those who have the ability to heal.
Jesus is the same way. Notice, he didn’t spend much time in the gospels hanging out with the healthy and well-adjusted. Instead, he was out on the seashore or in the fields, preaching to the rabble and healing the sick, lame, blind and dead. Jesus is drawn to the hurting. When he senses a broken heart, he can’t stay away. He comes running with open arms.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
In Luke 14, Jesus tells this interesting parable about a banquet. The host invited his respectable friends to come dine with him, but instead of receiving the invitation with joy, all the friends made excuses as to why they couldn’t come. According to Jewish prophecy, the purpose of the Messiah was to clarify the Mosaic law. This is what Jesus did. Except that the religious leaders were expecting a different sort of clarification. Since they had spent a lot of time and effort perfecting their adherence to the law, they thought the Messiah would give them a pat on the back. Instead, Jesus showed up and said, “It’s all about faith and love. And the greatest among you will first be a servant.” How joyous! How freeing! How incredibly disappointing for those holding out for a special seat at the table.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12).
So when the respectable, whole and well-adjusted refused to come to the Master’s banquet, he turned to his servant and said, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Invite the Gentiles and Samaritans. Call the adulteress at the well and the crippled man at the pool. Get the woman with the issue of blood, the man with the withered hand, and the paraplegic on his mat. Go down to the graveyard and fetch the demon-possessed boy wandering the tombstones. Then bring them into my house to inherit my kingdom. The weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning.”
That’s who Jesus is. And the Son is a reflection of the Father.
The Bible says that when we mourn–when we feel most brokenhearted–that’s when we are blessed. Because that’s when Jesus is drawing near to comfort us. He promises that we’ll be comforted. And I don’t believe that means in some distant place and time called heaven. I believe that means right now, if we’ll just turn and recognize his presence.
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
~ Footprints in the Sand