“He was…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”
After the sad events of yesterday, I was reminded this morning of a chapter in one of Philip Yancey’s books. In this chapter he gives a transcript of a sermon he preached at a church near the Virginia Tech campus shortly after their own tragedy. He argues, rightly so, not for the reality of God’s distance in the midst of horrible circumstances, but for God’s nearness in those circumstances. This kind of promise and reality is comforting.
Read through the Gospels and you’ll find only one scene in which someone addresses Jesus directly as God: “My Lord and my God!” Do you know who said that? It was doubting Thomas, the disciple stuck in sadness, the last holdout against believing the incredible news of resurrection. Jesus appeared to Thomas in his newly transformed body, obliterating Thomas’ doubts. What prompted that outburst of belief, however – “My Lord and my God!” – was the presence of scars. Feel my hands, Jesus told him. Touch my side. Finger my scars. In a flash of revelation Thomas saw the wonder of Almighty God, the Lord of the Universe, stooping to take on our pain, to complete the union with humanity.
Not even God remained exempt from pain. God joined us and fully shared our human condition, including its distress. Thomas recognized in that pattern the most foundational truth of the universe, that God is love. To love means to hurt, to grieve. Pain manifests life.
The Jews, schooled in Old Testament prophecies, had a saying, “Where Messiah is, there is no misery.” After Jesus you could change that saying to, “Where misery is, there is Messiah.” Blessed are the poor, Jesus said, and those who hunger and thirst, and those who mourn, and those who are persecuted. Jesus voluntarily embraced every one of the states he called blessed: he knew poverty and he felt hunger and thirst; he mourned; he was cruelly persecuted
God stands on the side of those who suffer.
– Philip Yancey, “What Good is God?”
There is rest to be had in the knowledge that we are not alone in our mourning. Jesus Himself is with us. He knows the hurt of the human heart. It is, in fact, in the Christmas season that we celebrate the fact that God came down to live and walk and weep and hurt and even die among us. He is near, He is here.
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
– Victor Hugo