Friday, March 15, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 15, 2013

For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things. Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with no one to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress . . . (Psalm 107:9-13)

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31)

It is usually at Christmas time that we sing songs about Jesus that employ the Hebrew name Emmanuel—God is with us. But we ought to sing songs like that all year round so that we never, never, forget that God is truly with us.

God’s withness is not meant to be an abstraction of theology. The Bible speaks of God as the One who allows his people to suffer the consequences of their actions and choices, but who also meets them in their desperation, hears their cry, and rescues them. God remains with us even in the worst of circumstances.

I once knew a woman who told me that, as a young teenager, having suffered through more pain than a kid should have to endure, she made a decision to stop trying to be good and to embrace the hard-drinking party life. And she told God she was going to do that. She said that she heard God say to her, “Alright. I’ll go with you.” Years later, when she cried out to God in her alcoholic desperation, he rescued her. She still carried the burden of her recovery, but she knew that God continued to be with her.

I’ve thought a lot about that over the years. Does God really stand by us when we deliberately choose paths that will inevitably result in pain and suffering? I believe that he does. I can imagine God standing next to that young, angry teenager, carrying the pain of her life on his shoulders while she vainly tried to medicate her agony. He said he would be with her, and he was.

And when I think of God doing that, I see Jesus.

Jesus was soundly criticized for coming alongside people considered to be sinners. But in Jesus the face of God was revealed in a way that scandalized those who thought they were above sin. But the sinners knew they were sinners, and Jesus knew that, too. He came alongside them and entered their pain. They took his hand as he reached out, and he rescued them. Jesus was with them.

God has, in human skin, become Emmanuel to us. Jesus is with us.

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