A friend recently put a book in my hands, knowing it would be just what my heart needed. “God on Mute” by Greig is a fabulous read in many ways. It’s comforting to know that others wrestle with the silence of God. But, my favorite part of the book talks about how God indeed is with us in the midst of ache, and how that presence often comes in the shape of other people.
Sometimes it’s not enough to tell a suffering friend you’re praying for them. Sometimes you have to become the answer to your own prayer…I realized that God is present in the midst of suffering because we are present in it. We are God’s presence.
I believe prayer is the greatest work possible; but, I also think prayer can be an excuse for not going into bless-your-socks-off action. I can be guilty of this…thinking I’ve prayed and that prayer alone is sufficient. Sometimes it is sufficient, but other times, what if I am the answer to these prayers I am lifting up?
A meal placed on the doorstep.
A gift card when funds are dried up.
Encouraging words spoken.
A ride to the doctor to share the load of possible bad news.
A hand to hold in the confusion.
Choosing to enter into a friend’s pain even if I have no words to make it better.
Katie Davis, author of “Kisses from Katie,” says it like this:
…even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in. I can enter in to someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter.
I’ve thought about the Bible and an example of a character that portrays such kindness. Immediately, I thought of Ruth. Her husband has died and she chooses to enter into her mother in law’s all encompassing grief of losing her husband and both sons. Ruth could have quickly dismissed her and gone back to her own family, but she clung to Naomi instead. She even followed her back to a foreign land and accepted Yahweh as her Lord.
Three times in the book of Ruth, the Hebrew word, hesed is found. It is “loving kindness.” Perhaps it is the most important Hebrew word of all as it reveals God’s loyal love towards us. Hesed is God’s persistent and unconditional tenderness on display for all to see. It is the superglue that keeps our relationship with the God of the universe in tact. God’s loyal love towards His children is lasting. It isn’t based on our behavior, but His covenant. Hesed is the thing that keeps His children in the palms of His hands and guards our inheritance. Hesed.
Ruth shows us a taste of hesed in her loyal love towards Naomi. She clings to her and fastens her grip even tighter during Naomi’s ache. Returning home would have perhaps been easier for Ruth, but she chose the Christ like (and hard) path of entering into another’s grief and staying put. When Naomi returns to her homeland, she tells everyone to call her “Mara” which means bitter. (Remember the waters at Marah in the wilderness which were too bitter to drink…) Ruth has selflessly agreed to hold fast to a woman swimming in an ocean of bitterness, anguish, and anger. She doesn’t let go. That is a taste of hesed. When Ruth has no answers, she offers her presence instead.
Ruth’s loving kindness towards Naomi is a precious example of God’s loving kindness towards us.
We simply can’t be all things to all people. There isn’t enough time, energy, or funds to fully enter everyone’s ache. I wrestle with this and Satan loves to attack me in this way. I think freedom comes when I obey the nudge of the Holy Spirit: “enter in with this person.” I can pray for all the ache that surrounds and then enter in when I feel the extra tug at my heart. We can be Christ’s presence to others one at a time. I can rest in the sufficiency of that since we are each only a mere part of Christ’s body, not the whole. If we are all responding to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, then perhaps it is enough.
I’d love to hear a short snippet of how another person has been Christ’s presence in your life. I’d love to hear examples of how I can lace up my shoes and start to be some of the answers to my own prayers…
Tell me how someone entered your pain and blessed you with the presence of God.