The Lord is Near

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By Jonathan Schaffner
Lead Missionary, Church at Ridgeway

The leaves are shifting colors. The air is crisp and cool. The sun is stingy, getting darker, earlier. Pumpkin spice saturates the atmosphere. Plaid is the fashion of the hour. No, this isn’t a Hallmark TV show. It’s November in Oklahoma! Thanksgiving will soon be upon us. For some, this means making joyful memories. For others, this means heartache as they experience grief due to loss or tragedy in their life.

To those who are experiencing grief during this holiday season, I’m reminded of the promise found in the Psalms: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” (Psalm 34:18). It is easy to think that the presence of the Lord is so rich during times of great joy or accomplishment, but human experience has said otherwise. Many people have felt such a strong divine touch from Christ during their greatest moments of sadness and despair.

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There is a story in the Scriptures that express this thought, that God is close to those who are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. We find it in John chapter 11.

Jesus was traveling with his disciples, teaching and ministering when they received word that his friend, Lazarus, was sick. Jesus waited a couple of days and went to Bethany where Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were living. By that time, Lazarus had already died. Jesus first encounters Martha. He encourages her with the truth that Lazarus will be raised from the dead. Her response was, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Then Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Then immediately Martha goes to get Mary and she addresses Jesus. Mary expresses her grief and heartache. She said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” Then she begins to weep intensely. What happens next is so profound. The passage goes on to say, “Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” What? The God of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ, was moved by the tears of His creation? What happens next is almost unthinkable. The Scriptures declare, “Jesus wept,” too. Not only was he moved with compassion and empathy, but He also wept alongside His dear friend, Mary. He was close to the brokenhearted and He allowed His presence to bring comfort to the crushed in spirit.

Dear friend, can you relate to Mary? She just lost her loved one. She is stricken with grief. Tears of brokenness rush from her heart and soul. What is incredible, however, is that God was right there weeping with her. God was present with her in her greatest moment of pain. Jesus went to her during her greatest moment of sadness. And likewise, for us, Jesus comes to be present in our afflictions. He is not some distant deity out there in the cosmos. He is right there with us, surrounding us with His love. When we call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, He is most assuredly close to the brokenhearted and saving those who are crushed in spirit.

And maybe you will be around those who are hurting, riddled with grief. You can encourage them with the truth of God’s Word. Also, you can simply be present in their life, weeping with them, holding them closely this holiday season.

Questions? Comments? Prayer? jtschaffner@gmail.com