What is our deepest longing, as people? I would suggest that it is to be loved. I have listened to numerous testimonies by people who at one time lived lives that made it appear as though they gave absolutely no thought to the need to be loved, when in reality, they were yearning for it on the inside. They wanted someone to love them enough to show them a better way of living…someone who had their best interests at heart. Someone who would be a compassionate listener when they needed to vent their deepest frustrations, allowing them to be as honest and flawed as they truly are, and yet still offer love and acceptance. Someone who would allow them to put the weight of their discouragement, fear, anxiety, abandoned hopes, feelings of worthlessness, and all of their other struggles onto them and give them the wisdom to navigate through them. Someone to hold them when they were feeling…done…tired…burnt out…shame…at the end of their rope…and who would whisper, “I love you,”…”I…love…you.” We all long for this, and this is the kind of relationship God offers us through His Son, Jesus.
We can feel free to bring our troubles, anger, frustration, and sadness to God, and we can be assured that He will listen to our every thought and word. His heart is moved by the things that carve valleys of pain through our souls. He is there when we weep. He is there when we ask why. His understanding and mercy toward us are considerable, and what makes Him great is that they are also considerable toward those we call our enemies. Can we be okay with that? Maybe we can. Maybe we can let it bring us a sense of comfort, knowing that God offers the same grace to all.
“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” – Isaiah 30:18
When someone is good to you, you want to share it with others. When they are kind, patient, understanding and self-sacrificing on your behalf, you want to give back somehow. When someone has extended mercy and forgiveness to you and has pursued you even though you felt you were not worth pursuing, you want to express thanks. And my way of thanking God is to tell others about Him. To share with others that He is good, patient, forgiving, humble, and a seeker after them. When Jesus left this earth to go back to His Father, He told his disciples to tell others about Him. To let others know that they could come to Him if they wanted to have a life with He and the Father. Both here and now, and forever. When I think about Christmas, I think of all of the fun things that our culture does to celebrate the season – the lights, the Christmas trees, the gift giving, but there’s this quiet voice in my heart that keeps reminding me that Jesus was the greatest gift ever given, and that Christmas is about Him being all we need when entering a relationship with God. We don’t need to make special sacrifices (Jesus did that), we don’t need to put on special garments (Jesus is that), and we don’t need to be perfect (Jesus was that). All we need to do is invite Jesus into our hearts and lives. I was lost before He became a part of my life. I was searching, but I didn’t realize I was searching. And even though I wasn’t looking in His direction, He gently knocked on the door of my heart and drew me to Him. There is nothing I can do to repay God for what He has done, but I can tell others that God is hope, and He can fill your heart with it. That’s not to say that life will be perfect, Jesus told us that life would not be without struggles, but He will never abandon us in those struggles. It is a Merry Christmas, and it’s all because of Jesus.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:8-14
Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is how God in the Old Testament (OT) sometimes seems different from the God Jesus came to make known. I know that He is not different because God does not change…“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). The Bible also reveals that Jesus is God…“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15), and that He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So why does it seem like God was more stern in the OT, whereas Jesus makes familiar a God of love, patience, mercy, and forgiveness? First, I need to say that the OT is not without examples of the love and forgiveness of God…I just get more insight into the gentleness of God, in Jesus. So this is a question I will continue to ask God about. But one thing I do know. I know that God is love…“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). And I have experienced His love first hand, when at times I have acted less than loving toward Him and He has made it known to me, whether it was through something I read, something someone said, or just a reassuring thought, that He was still there and was present with me. Through Jesus, God forgives us our shortcomings and not only that, but like the prodigal son, He sees us from a “long way off” and is “filled with compassion” (Luke 15:20).
I have found that I need to be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to appear as if I have my life “together” in the hopes of being a better example for God. Since I am human and not without fault, I will never truly have a handle on everything. If I did, I might not seek out God’s help. The most important thing I can do in an effort to bring God glory is to let others see His love in me. That is what drew me to Him. I saw His love expressed through a friend who chose to accept me as I was at a time when she could have passed judgement instead. The love she showed me not only glorified Him, but it made me more curious to know the God she loved.