How do you comfort someone whose baby leaves the womb with severe brain damage and a defective heart? The little girl, if she survived, would be totally disabled for life, unable to lift her head, to speak, or to feed herself.
What can you do?
You go. You drive to the hospital. You don’t fret about whether you’ll flub what you say. That’s thinking of yourself, not the hurting dad and mom. Besides, when someone hurts that much, words offer little comfort. Your presence eclipses in importance anything you say.
That’s what Ronnie did. As he and the dad viewed the baby, shielded by a glass partition in ICU, the young father’s loud wails reverberated off the hallway walls. He collapsed in Ronnie’s arms. Before long it was difficult to determine if the wet spots on Ronnie’s shirt were caused by the dad’s tears, or his own.
Ronnie’s long arms, his strong shoulder, and his tear-soaked shirt told the dad, “I cared enough to come. I love you enough to enter your realm of pain.”
God with skin on, loving on a couple of His children in shock about their baby.
The Power of Presence
Albert’s grown son, whom Nathan had never met, called Nathan one evening and pleaded for him to rush to his dad’s house. “He’s talking suicide,” the son said. “He won’t listen to reason and says you’re the only person he knows who would understand.”
Albert, a self-employed handyman, had struggled financially for some time. Bills were piling up. He owed back taxes. That very day, two lucrative jobs he had put bids on and expected to receive went to someone else. He couldn’t see a way out of his financial quagmire. Albert felt like a failure. Pessimism and hopelessness governed his mood. A few years before, he had heard Nathan give his testimony in a church, how God had sustained him for years despite deep depression and a yearning to die. They had become friends, though they hadn’t talked face to face in a while.
Nathan, despite no experience as a counselor and no background in dealing with a suicidal person, arrived at Albert’s house twenty-five minutes later. He felt uneasy, inadequate for such a role. All the way there he had muttered prayers for wisdom, and for Albert himself. For more than an hour, he listened to Albert’s laments. Nathan held Albert, cried with him, and prayed aloud for him, both for God’s comfort and for work to come his way.
Nathan’s presence and prayers seemed to calm Albert. At Nathan’s initiative, they brainstormed for ways to increase awareness of Albert’s small business. Nathan coaxed from Albert a promise to call him–anytime day or night–if he ever started thinking again of ending his life. By the time Nathan left, Albert felt more hopeful. It was as if Nathan’s presence had lifted a heavy boulder off Albert’s chest, relieving him of a debilitating burden.
Within a week, requests for Albert’s skills began trickling in. He didn’t earn a lot in the ensuing months, but he earned enough to get by, enough to instill hope for the more distant future.
God wrapped Himself in human skin. Again.
The Illumination of Incarnation
The sinfulness of man had snuffed out the light. Morally speaking, the landscape looked dark and foreboding. The sun had set on a world marred by dysfunctional families, sexual license, power-hungry despots, bloody wars, idol worship, and conceited religious leaders who claimed to know the one true God of creation.
The Old Testament Scriptures pinpointed the problem of sin that separated man from God. Those same texts also revealed God’s passionate love for His wayward children. God had sent His prophets to speak for Him, but they were usually rejected. He set up a system of temporary sacrifices that made a relationship with Him possible, but something more was needed for the long haul. Mankind needed someone who would fulfill the Old Testament law, not just expose our inability to obey it. A living Word promised by some of the prophets. A Word that would fulfill God’s justice, satisfy His holiness, and die as our Substitute: a once-and-for-all sacrifice to make an eternal relationship with God possible. One whose righteousness would be transferred to our account when we put faith in Him.
For four centuries, God had been silent. But when He finally spoke again, His raucous Voice pealed from one end of the earth to the other. God fleshed out His love and dwelt among us.
Enter the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, born of a virgin. One who lived thirty three years without sin, who took the punishment for sin that we deserve. The Son of God, in human form, who knew what it was like to feel tired, to be hungry, to be tempted by the evil one, even to feel forsaken by God the Father Himself. Can you imagine such condescension for One so holy and pure? One who had existed with the Father and Holy Spirit from all eternity, but who put on human skin and endured its limitations? He entered the morally-bankrupt, dark environment of earth and literally felt our pain and angst. When the Father said “Go,” He went.
A different kind of Sonlight rose on that first Christmas morning, and again three days after He died on a cross.
Oh, I’m well aware that we still live in a sin-ravaged world, where spiritual darkness continues to hover over millions of people. And a measure of darkness still pervades the minds of some of us who love Him–just ask a Christian who experiences bouts of depression. It’s still a fallen world. Yet a ray of light from this Son crashes through the clouds and beams a ray of hope for us now, and the hope of yet another realm where the sun will never set.
God with skin on–the first time. Incarnation is still His primary method of loving people in need.
Let’s thank our God for entering our messy world, for wrapping His love gift in human skin on that first Christmas.
And like Ronnie and Nathan, let’s allow Him to get under our skin so He can love others through us.
When God whispers,”Go,” let’s hurry.