Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Be There...It's That Simple and That Hard

We've had illness at our house for the last few weeks and it's slow.ed. us. down. In times of physical discomfort and nurturing those who are uncomfortable, I haven't had any particularly insightful spiritual wisdom except...."presence." Simply being there--in the moment, sharing pain--is powerful.

"Was Jesus changing diapers at 3:00 a.m.? Cause that's what I need--someone who's been there."
That's what a student recited at the high school play last week. We know Jesus was up at 3:00 a.m. regularly, praying (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:15; 6:12). We know He endured everything a man ever can or will; that He was made like us in every way (Hebrews 2:17-18). But His purpose was unique--and as a result, you and I are here. You. Me. We're here to be Jesus; to be one whose body fights weakness, fatigue, illness, hunger, lust, depravity--and who is redeemed, reborn, recreated.

For those of us who have accepted His payment for our sin, Jesus' presence is the power that moves and changes us. It's not a presence that's "out there." His Spirit is "in here"--dwelling, at home, living in and through us (John 14:16-17). And because Jesus is God, fully everywhere at all times, we can take comfort in knowing He is with us "always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His presence allows us to give up selfish desires and love others. It's a slow, day by day, year after year transformation. Not reformation. Not conformation. Transformation. Complete, radical change. And it is the living, breathing, loving life that gives hope, peace and comfort to those in suffering and pain.

1) You can only be there if you've embraced and endured.
You may not have had exactly the same experience, but you can be there for someone else if you've worked your way out of bitterness, fear, resentment, anger or self-pity with God's help. If you haven't, you will help no one. You will only breed more: more bitterness, fear, resentment, anger and self-pity. Like a child's finger-painting, you will add to the confusion and chaos with dark colors of unconfessed sin. But if you've considered the prophets of old, who spoke in the name of the Lord; if you've run to the name of the Lord as your strong tower; if you've considered it joy to suffer and learn and grow then you can undergird, uphold, encourage, come alongside and bind up the broken-hearted.

2) You can only be there if you're there.
If you isolate yourself from the trouble of others, brush off another's hurt with words of platitude or condescension, refuse to get involved, or simply say, "I'll pray about it," you are not the presence and aroma of Christ. Loving yourself more than others is not a measure of presence but self-protection. Jesus did not protect Himself, He gave Himself freely and trusted His Father to meet His every need. The payment of His presence was pain, suffering, a life of poverty, and ultimately, death. Are you really willing to be Jesus in the life of others?

If you want to be there, if you're willing to enter another's hurt, offer your presence. Be Jesus. Tell them of His eternal forgiveness and the hope that's available in Christ. Live it. Share it. It's life the way He intended it.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us,He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

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