read Luke 2. On Christmas Eve, I talked with a beautiful young woman who has been sick for several years. She had to drop out of college in order to try to recover. “I’ll write my next post for you,” I told her. “On healing.” I stopped, because I realized I’d been praying for her for a year and a half now, and she still wasn’t completely well. “And on how to trust God in sickness.” I paused again, because I knew that wasn’t the full story, either. I felt like I was missing something. “And on crying sometimes,” I said. “Because it’s good to cry sometimes.”
“I’ve shed a tear or two,” she said, with a smile.
“I cried today,” I said. Where did that come from, I thought. We were at a Christmas Eve party. I hadn’t planned on telling anyone I’d been consumed with self pity that morning.
“Why,” she asked. Her voice had the depth of compassion that comes from someone who has been through so much, they have just entered into your pain.
“Because,” I started to say, but then I had to stop because tears filled my eyes right there in the front hall of someone else’s house. “I’m going to cry now, if I say it out loud.” She didn’t say anything, but she nodded. Her eyes told me she knew exactly what my eyes were doing, and her face helped me say it out loud. “I was afraid of being alone forever.”
“But you’re not alone, are you,” she said. “That’s not true.”
I realized I didn’t need to write a post for her on healing. She had written it for me.
She gave me the gift of her compassion – a compassion she had earned through her own pain. She gave me the kindness she had received – from her parents, who adore her, and her brother, who loves her, and, I know, from the Lord God, who loves us all but who comes closest to us when we need Him most – as she has needed Him over the past few years.
That beautiful young woman may be half my age. She may not have finished college yet. But she knows far more than I do. She met me in the “deepest thought” of my heart. She met me in a place I had buried because I had gone down the wrong path in my thinking and got stuck there. She brought my darkness to the surface, where she could heal it with truth.
In other words, she was Christ to me.
May the same Christ be there for you, today, too. If you read Luke 2, you can see that the story begins with a ruler ordering a census. That’s the human way. We humans want to count up the other humans around us. That kind of thinking, however, as I discovered, can lead us down a path where we find the number zero. Sometimes on this earth, it does look like we have nothing.
But that’s never true. We just don’t know how to read the signs. Here is the sign of the savior, the messiah and the Lord: a baby wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger. God can bring the radiance of the Lord’s glory out of seemingly small things. He can bring it out of sickness, loneliness, abandonment, and fear. We’re too busy counting the number of humans around us – while God is telling us to look up at the stars. That’s where the armies of heaven are praising God, even in the midst of suffering.
Like Mary, we can keep these things in our hearts and think about them often. We can remind each other of God’s great love for us. The good news that will bring greatest joy to all the earth is that God came down to suffer the pain and sickness with us. The “radiance of the Lord’s glory” surrounds us all. The armies of heaven are vast. “I will be with you always,” Jesus promised. He secured that promise with the cross.
That doesn’t mean we won’t have crosses of our own to bear. On the contrary, Jesus said we will. God doesn’t always protect us from pain. He doesn’t always shield us from sickness. But He walks through the pain and sickness and suffering with us, and He brings good out of bad if we cling to Him through it. Sickness and other things that keep us shut in can open up to us the truth of God’s love. They can bring us closer to Him. They can bring us to the place where, like the 12 year old Jesus in this chapter, we say to others: “But didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Once you have tasted heaven; once angels have spoken to you; once the prophecies of the Holy Spirit have come alive in front of you; you can only say, like the shepherds here: we have to go see!
Because the thing that draws you is God’s love. A “time came” for the baby Jesus to be born; the time is now come where He will live in our hearts if we ask Him: and one day, a time will come when we will all see the heavens open and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surround us, and the armies of heaven singing the real Hallelujah chorus. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. God will make His home among his people. “God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelations 21:1-4. That’s the end of the story, but God wrote it from the beginning.
We will already know the One who comes down to restore the earth – because He is there for us already. He’s already come. He’s already here. He is with us now. We are not alone. His love is healing us moment by moment.
I would prefer that my young friend didn’t know as much. I would prefer she had never gotten sick. I would prefer that she had finished college. I am praying hard that she recovers. If you are reading this, you can pray for her, too. It is time, Lord. It is time for her to get better. But the thing that I was missing last night, which she showed me, is the presence of Christ. Jesus heals our spirits with His love. It’s only a matter of time before everything else in the world catches up.
with love, Caroline