I recently met a woman whose exhaustion and loneliness was written on her face. She exuded defeat, though for the sake of her two children she tried to hold it together. A single mom of teenagers chain smoked vigorously throughout the day and smiled without really smiling. Something about her stopped me in my tracks.
Not being a naturally outgoing person, I might have walked past her on an ordinary evening. But in this moment I felt utterly compelled to walk up to her and… I don’t know what. I had never met her before, and I had no idea of what I would say. I just knew somehow that I was supposed to go over to her.
Luckily, I had an excellent ice breaker in my arms – my little daughter. She tends to attract attention wherever she goes. All manners of strangers reach out to touch her, from grisly biker dudes at the gas station, to the grandma standing in the grocery check-out line. For some reason a baby is a safe buffer; no one can feel intimidated or threatened when an adorable little one is around.
It was night time and getting dark. Many families and friends sat in groups talking near the campfire, but this woman sat on her own aloof and glassy-eyed. I could feel her sadness as we spoke. She told me that she wished she could hold the baby but, on account of being drunk, she would not. I thanked her for that and promised she could hold her in the morning. “Thank you for coming to talk to me,” she said.
Even the darkness couldn’t hide that slight quiver in her voice. What she didn’t know is that the infant whom she so desired to hold and cuddle, was currently wearing a onesie with the prophetic words of Isaiah scripted across the front: “God has you in the palm of His hand.” That she prohibited herself from reaching out due to her current state of inebriation was not lost on me.
This word of Isaiah’s is part of a passage where God comforts his people, reminding them of His promise to save them and give them an inheritance that will never spoil.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me…
“Though you were ruined and made desolate
and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
and those who devoured you will be far away.
Isaiah 49:14-16, 19 NIV
Now days later she rests heavy on my heart because this is only one example of a person who feels her desperate need for redemption but either cannot or will not reach out and receive it because she believes she must first redeem herself to be accepted. Friends, this is not so!
Jesus promises an abundant life (John 10:10). And that promise of abundance is not delayed. Jesus is not just assuring us of some vague, future eternal life in Heaven with God. He’s talking about a present-tense, immediate abundance of life, today! Something we can take hold of that right here and now, just as we are: ruins and all.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 NLT
Jesus didn’t wait until all the people repented and acknowledged him. Even his own disciples ran away and denied him in his hour of need. No, he stayed on that cross to finish the work, of taking our deserved punishment so that anyone could reach out and grab that bundle of joy.
This is the Good News: That through declaring Jesus as Lord and believing in Him, we may be welcomed into the family of God, to love and be loved without fear.
“But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am…”
1 Corinthians 15:10 MSG
For prayer, journaling, or meditation:
- Prayerfully re-read Isaiah 49:14-16, 19
- How would you respond to a friend who believes he/she has to earn their way into God’s good favor?
- Can you think of a time when you have purposely held back from approaching God? How did you end up going back to Him? (If you haven’t yet, what is causing you to stay away?)