Encouragement in Suffering #2: Immanuel

My Christmas tree is up and looking pretty great (even if I say so myself).  Why, you may ask, is my Christmas tree up before thanksgiving?  A) I love Christmas.  B) I love Christmas trees.  C) Thanksgiving is valuable to me in that it’s a sign post for Christmas (and the food I guess).  D) I love Christmas.

I’ve always loved Christmas, but I remember my first Christmas with Jesus, and how different that was.  I remember the amazement I felt at knowing that the Word had become flesh and dwelt among us.  It’s crazy really.  It’s not crazy when you’re looking at the American Jesus – who is kind and cuddly and fits right in your pocket.  But it’s pretty nuts when you’re looking at Jesus who was before all things and through whom all things came into being.  The Jesus of the Bible  upholds all things by the word of his power and He is the radiance of the glory of the Father and the exact representation of His nature, and this is the Jesus who chose to bind Himself in flesh and dwell among us.  This is the Jesus who subjected Himself to all the humiliation and suffering that comes with being found in the form of man.

And it’s one of the greatest encouragements I know for us in the midst of suffering.  The comfort for you and I in the face of suffering is found in the flesh of Christ.

My last blog was about the comfort that can come from zooming out.  The thing is, once we grasp this our fractured logic can lead us to believe that God doesn’t care about the day-to-day pain we face.  We can begin to assume that God isn’t interested in the light and momentary affliction we face.  We tell ourselves that He is not the kind of God that would be concerned with the details of our suffering.

And we would be wrong.

Jesus – in whom the fullness of God is pleased to dwell – wrapped Himself in skin and suffered like me and you so that in our worst pain and moments of suffering we would know the truth.  God doesn’t scoff at the smallness of our pain.  God meets us in the intimate details of our pain.  God is with us even in the smallest hurts.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

In our deepest pain, lies creep in and lead us to turn away from the only source of comfort.  We listen to the whisper that God does not understand the pain of abandonment or rejection; that He is annoyed that we are so bothered by our singleness; that He is frustrated with our pathetic inability to trust in the bigger picture;  God can’t possibly know what it feels like to be tempted to doubt His goodness in lonely nights or when tragedy strikes.

And Christmas is the evidence that these whispers are lies.  Christmas is the great glowing ebeneezer that reminds us we don’t have a God who wants us to just ‘get over it’.  We have a God who understands how rough this world can be because He lived it.

We have a God who came down and suffered with us.  Our God is the only being who never had to suffer; He’s the only person who never had to experience any pain, and yet He willingly endured the most horrific pain imaginable.  Why? So that in the moments when we are most tempted to despair in the face of our suffering we can go to Him, messy and broken and confident that He can help.

Because there is no one like our God.  He holds the universe in His palm but He will never scoff at the intimate details of our fears.  He will never grow impatient our inability to ‘zoom out’.  He will never roll His eyes at our desire to have a husband or a child or a different tomorrow.

We have a high priest who understands because He too has endured suffering.  He knows about lonely painful nights.  He knows about losing loved ones.  He knows about being rejected and abandoned and forsaken.  He knows about the moments when you look around and everything seems to be going wrong.  He knows about faces flung heavenward, begging for another way.  He knows about the weight of suffering.  Look to the Cross; He knows.

Surely there is none like our God.

He beckons us close even now.  He whispers to our hearts – draw near, beloved, draw near.  I know this storm.  I’ve weathered it.  Draw near and find the grace and mercy you need to breathe in and out.

His name is called Immanuel.  Because that is who He is: God with us.

4 thoughts on “Encouragement in Suffering #2: Immanuel

  1. Oh, I really needed to read this- right at this moment. It is easy to know these things are true for others and so difficult to really grab ahold of for ourselves.

  2. I am so, so blessed by your insights! I’ve read your posts over and over when I am tempted to forget God’s truth and accept the lies that seem so convincing. Thank you for reminding me of the only thing that matters in this trial….that God can sympathize, and He is with me!

  3. Three years later, God is still using your words! Thank you for sharing this then and so glad it came back to the forefront of my mind now (I had saved it in a file on my computer). I have shared it with many others and the Lord used it to meet their hearts as well. JOY to you!

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