There were some peasants drinking in a tavern in the Polish countryside years ago and a rabbi entered the tavern. He watched as they became very drunk and then started telling each other how much they loved each other. Each one was trying to convince the other that his love was stronger when one of the men whose name was Ivan said to Peter: “Peter, tell me what hurts me?” Looking at Ivan through his bleary eyes he replied: “How do I know what hurts you?” Ivan answered him saying: “If you don’t know what hurts me, how can you love me?”
When David cried out in earnest desire “to behold the beauty of the Lord” in Psalms 27:4, he obviously already knew that God was beautiful, that He was tender, that He was a tremendous lover seeking to embrace him and he wanted to see more of Him.
When Moses cried out to God in Exodus 33:18, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory”, the response was without hesitation. “And he said, I will make ALL MY GOODNESS pass before thee….”
God loves so deeply, it is blinding. As the darkness enveloped the earth that day of Jesus crucifixion, the radiant, blazing glory of God was shining forth. Psalms 18:11 declares that “He made darkness his secret place;..”. The greatest struggle in the heart is to actually believe that this kind of love is true and we can experience it.
He does know all about us, He does know what hurts us now and then, and while we struggle to understand why and are surrounded by darkness it seems, His arms are outstretched and His embrace is there, His presence and His person are freely offered to us through childlike faith.
A minister tells the story of a minister friend who cracked emotionally and spiritually under the pressure of ministry and resigned his church and abandoned his family. Just walked away. He went to a logging camp in New England and was living in an aluminum trailer in the middle of the winter. It was extremely cold one day and the man was shaking from the cold when the portable electric heater, his only source of warmth quit working and died. Lost in his self-pity, feeling the whole world against him, he swore and then shouted, “God, I hate you!”.
He fell to his knees weeping in misery and in the “bright darkness of faith”, he heard the voice of Jesus Christ say to him: “I know; it’s okay.” As he sat there crushed and broken in life and had just told God that he hated Him, the man was startled to hear Jesus weeping within him. Weeping with him!! They wept together and then the man stood up and began his journey back home.
“To know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge”, was the Apostle Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians 3:19. The Hebrew word for compassion refers to the womb of Yahweh, that deep stirring of powerful tenderness that wants to be birthed in acts of outrageous love. He is pursuing us with fierceness to demonstrate unwavering compassion. Are you truly convinced at this very moment how Jesus feels about you?
Did you ever really put on the robe, the ring, the sandals and sit down to dinner with the Father, angels shouting, great music and food, after you just did the most stupid thing? Have you ever come back when you did it again? The invitation is still there, He is still running towards you, He knows His kindness will lead you to repentance, you will change the way you think about Him, yourself and others. What does the elder brother know anyway? Can’t even enjoy His Father’s reason for parties and cannot celebrate the joy of seeing his brother restored. Sadly, he cannot see the face of His Father bursting with emotion, framed by glad tears because he never realized that knowing God was reveling in the beauty of His love.
Years ago I heard a story that I love to ponder. The unearned love of God can be very disturbing to the elder brother mentality. He lives for those in whom love is dead, dies that his killers might live and His love cannot be earned or supported by anything we do.
The story involves a minister once again and it is a true story. This minister had a very successful ministry and had tremendous impact. He was known and highly respected as a man of God. He gave himself unreservedly to the ministry and loved God. He had a wife and in time 2 young children. His wife on the other hand loved God also but she had a temperament that was subject to depression and struggled to handle the pressures of being in the ministry with her husband. The husband felt that by praying and continuing to minister for God would eventually bring help to his wife and really did not listen when different ones came to him sharing their concerns about his wife and encouraging him to be more sensitive to her condition and minister her differently. The man of God did not share their concerns but one day his wife suffered a nervous breakdown that was so severe that she had to be confined to a mental institution.
Never in his life did he dream that such a thing could happen. As the door closed behind her and he left the hospital, he felt totally betrayed by God. He bluntly told God that he was finished serving Him, was no longer going to care about the ministry or have anything to do with Christianity. He had given his life, his time, his money to serve Him all these years and if God could not have stopped this, even if he wasn’t the perfect husband, he could have but he didn’t. Full of rage and hurt, the man of God went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of whiskey and went home.
He gathered his children and that evening put them to bed, reassuring them that mommy will be okay in awhile and prayed with them and comforted them as best he could until they went to sleep. After doing the religious thing, which was all they understood, he went to the kitchen to get the bottle of whiskey and drink it.
As he reached for the bottle, he heard a knock at the door and swearing under his breath at this inconvenience, he put the bottle away and went to see who it was. When he opened the door he saw a man standing there who he had never seen in his life. He blurted out, “What do you want?”
Without saying a word the man stepped forward and wrapped his arms around him tightly and began to sob uncontrollably on his shoulders. Stunned, the man of God tried to break free of the grip but could not. He started protesting and asking this stranger to let go but the tears kept coming. Suddenly from deep within the man of God rose all the confusion, the hurt, the pain, the anger, every emotion over what had happened just erupted inside.
The man of God began to weep and the floodgates opened and he uncontrollably sobbed in the arms of a stranger. As he did so, he realized that God was not to blame for what happened. He understood that he, the man of God, had many times been warned to be sensitive to his wife but had not listened. It was his fault and he wept before the Lord in the arms of another.
Suddenly, the stranger stopped weeping and let go and stepped back. He looked at him without a word and quietly walked away. The man of God closed the door and took the bottle of whiskey and emptied its contents and threw it away. He went into the living room and poured out his heart to God, asking for forgiveness and declaring to the Lord that He was wonderful and that it was his fault this happened. Then he rededicated his life to Him, vowed to serve Him and would do his best to love his wife and children. He then asked God to have mercy on him and heal his wife and restore everything.
In this story, it happened. His wife was restored and together they served the Lord in ministry.
God loves us not for what He finds in us but what He finds within Himself. Calvary’s love is not a one time declaration of this love but a daily reminder that it is ours to experience. There is nothing you have ever done or will do, that can keep Him from relentlessly pursuing you, so stop and turn around into His embrace today and let Him heal you and awaken in you the response to that hug that won’t let you go.