Never have I woke up to a morning where He wasn’t waiting to spend the day with me. There’s never been a day I couldn’t live with Him if I chose. He is always near when life ways heavy on my shoulders— His arm is always outstretched for me to lean on.
But have you ever thought about what life would be like if He wasn’t there?
I’ve had to wonder lately if I take Him for-granted… Because He is faithful we forget what a gift He is. We forget how truly awesome it is to get to live life with Him.
And so as the sun set orange in the west, my prayer was simple… “teach me not to take You for-granted.” So when it felt like He’d hidden Himself, I was reminded— maybe this is where I learn. Darkness always gives way to a light even brighter than before when we open our hands to receive the black as well as the bright.
I can hardly even imagine a life without Him… no whispered prayers on soft pillows in the morning light. In fact no morning light at all, for He is the God of all that. No quiet hour basking in His love. No Shoulder to lean on in the day’s hard. No Love that makes every sunrise brighter, every flower more colorful and every moment sweeter. Nowhere to run when life caves in. No safe Place to hide when words of our fellow men sting. No texts of grace and love to read. No Protector of our hearts. No greater Purpose for our little lives. No One to put the sparkle in our eye and the joy in our day. No Arms to hold us when we cry. No One to share every detail of every day, and every pain in our little hearts. No quiet words with our Beloved in sunset’s glow. No Eye to watch and guard us as we sleep. No Reason to wake up in the morning. Nothing. Nothing.
And it’s when I don’t feel His presence as near that I realize, life is nothing without Him. Sure I know it. But now I know it with all my heart.
I don’t want life if I can’t live it with Him.
My mind goes back to Much-Afraid’s words in the powerful allegory Hinds Feet on High Places when the Shepherd asks her to give up all, and for a moment she contemplates a life without Him…
"For one black, awful moment Much-Afraid really considered the possibility of following the Shepherd no longer, of turning back. She need not go on. There was absolutely no compulsion about it. Her sorrow and suffering could be ended at once, and she could plan her life in the way she liked best, without the Shepherd. During that awful moment or two it seemed to Much-Afraid that she was actually looking into an abyss of horror, into an existence in which there was no Shepherd to follow or to trust or to love— no Shepherd at all, nothing but her own horrible self. Ever after, it seemed that she had looked straight down into Hell… The awful glimpse down into the abyss of an existence without Him had so staggered and appalled her heart that she felt she could never be quite the same again. However, it had opened her eyes to the fact that right down in the depths of her own heart she really had but one passionate desire, not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for Himself. All she wanted was to be allowed to follow Him forever. Other desires might clamor strongly and fiercely nearer the surface of her nature, but she knew now that down in the core of her own being she was so shaped that nothing could fit, fill, or satisfy her heart but He Himself. 'Nothing else really matters,' she said to herself, 'only to love Him and to do what he tells me. I don’t know quite why it should be so, but it is. All the time it is suffering to love and sorrow to love, but it is lovely to love Him in spite of this, and if I should cease to do so, I should cease to exist.'”
Her words are forever graven into me. What is life without my Jesus?
There is nothing in all the universe that compares to living in the light of His smile. And while He may hide His face for brief moments to let us find Him in a deeper way, the Son always comes back out, and when He does I realize more than ever what a gift He is.
I echo the prayer of old…
"Entreat me not to leave Thee, or to return from following after Thee: for whither thou goest I will go; Thy people shall be my people and Thy God my God… And where Thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part Thee and me.”
Every other gift in life is from Him and only becomes truly beautiful when we experience it with Him. Because really, “to live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
My life is existence until I live it with Him. Then it becomes life… like more abundant… life most beauty-full.
Really, it’s all pretty simple…
He is all.
So often I forget that there is more to Christianity than being made free myself. I may manage to remember that His love is deeper than the ocean. I may begin to comprehend the depth of transformation He wants to work in me. I may start to learn what it means to live slow and treasure the gift of life I have.
But is that all? Is any true friendship one-sided? Isn’t real friendship the sharing of two hearts?
I walk down the train tracks in the light of sunset and whisper it soft… “This isn’t all about me. How are You? What can I do to ease the ache of Your heart as You look at a broken world?”
Because isn’t it selfish of us to receive all the love and comfort He can give while never giving a second thought to what we might be able to do for Him? We pour out our desperate and lonely hearts to Him and He holds us and brings us through. But what about when His heart hurts from all the pain He looks down on 24/7? Are we there to love Him back and share His burdens?
I think back to that cold night. I can almost hear the whisper, His this time… “tarry ye here, and watch with me.” He didn’t ask for great feats of courage. He wanted their companionship. He wanted them to be with Him in His hour of pain.
He kneels— the agony ripping His heart. Agony so deep, He bleeds. And in His humanity He longs for the sympathy of those He loves most. He just wants to know someone understands, that someone is there to share His heart with in His moment of pain.
“The human heart longs for sympathy in suffering. This longing Christ felt to the very depths of His being. In the supreme agony of His soul He came to His disciples with a yearning to hear some words of comfort from those whom He had so often blessed and comforted, and shielded in sorrow and distress. The One who had always had words of sympathy for them… longed to know that they were praying for Him…” Desire of Ages p.
But they missed it. They were too consumed with their own physical “needs” to even know where to start at meeting His. Three times He came—longing to be understood. They slept on.
I have to wonder if I miss it too. How often do I get up and tell Him all the things I’m struggling with and never once ask what might be breaking His heart?
But maybe I only really experience the depth of communion I crave when I care about His heart more than my own. I don’t want to just be a customer who comes to Him for all the things I want. I want to be His friend. And that’s a two way thing.
“Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free?”
Perhaps true freedom is not about Him setting us free from pain and giving us a happy life. What if freedom was about picking up the other end of His cross and carrying it together and finding in sharing pain with Him a joy that is so much deeper than the supposed joy of a happy life?
“The cross of Christ is the sweetest burden that I ever bore; it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or sails to a ship to carry me forward to my harbor.” Samuel Rutherford
So maybe I am tired. Maybe I don’t always feel I have it in me to love people the way He does. Maybe I don’t want to be asked to give and give again when my heart longs for a chance to stop and receive filling myself. But maybe the filling I crave is only found in communion of the deepest sort— sharing His suffering.
After all, we are the hands He has on earth. When His heart breaks for the pain of the world, couldn’t we lighten His load by pouring out ourselves to relieve the suffering of His children? Sure, alone we can do nothing—not even change our own hearts. But isn’t the grace that is strong enough to transform our hearts strong enough to empower us to be there for the One who left all to be there for us?
We speak so freely of serving God. But do we really realize the depth of that phrase? We have the awesome privilege of being there for Him, of bearing the cross with Him, of willingly carrying burdens on our shoulders so that He does not walk alone. And after all… this load is light, because we bear it together.
The words of Bonhoeffer— a man who truly knew what it meant to share the suffering of His Jesus— hit me between the eyes… "Christians stand by God in his hour of grieving.”
And so when I pray to go as deep with Him as is humanly possible, I don’t know what that prayer means. But He does. And I wouldn’t have it unprayed for anything.
Let me sacrifice. Let me give up my dearest treasures. Let me pour every drop of myself out, even if it be on hard ground. Let me be present to You in Your pain. Let me be there for You, the One who is always there for me.
Let me be Your friend.
I don’t want You to carry the cross alone…
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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Hands Open. Heart Full.