I just been watching the news (a bad idea these days) and a few times I heard the phrase “we’re all with you” or some variation on that theme. The first one was Justin Trudeau from Canada talking about the air crash in Iran. I assume it was his sympathy he was sending to be with them, not his actual presence! Other words were from politicians commenting on the bushfires raging in Australia now. Some were from journalists who didn’t know what to say and so filled the air with good sounding words. So what exactly do these words mean?
Since I’m about to undergo a medical procedure, I’ve heard those words quite a lot. People say them and I suspect they mostly mean, “I’m sympathetic with your situation.” I’m never sure exactly what to say back since the reason I just told them my story was because I knew they would be sympathetic. One writer said these words are totally useless since they carry no commitment to do anything at all.
Because of the circles I move in, many people say “I’m praying for you” which, if they do what they say, will mean I will get some benefit somewhere from their connection with the man upstairs. I have been tempted to ask “are you getting along well with God” before accepting their offer but haven’t ever done so. Again there is only a small commitment to do something, because, if there is prayer, and I’m not there to hear it, I really don’t know if it happens. And if their connection with God is not so good I’m not sure whether he will answer it anyway. Though that’s not certain because God does seem to answer prayers of people who are “on the naughty list” unlike that blokes in the red suit!
Now, I suspect the idea of expressing sympathy in this way, comes from the idea that often we don’t know what to say so we say something / anything that sounds good. So what are we to make of Gods promise to be with us? It’s the same sort of thing but as far as I know He’s never filled up the air with empty words. So surely they have to mean something other than I’ve got your best interests at heart. I’ll admit I’ve been puzzling over this since Christmas when we are told Jesus was called “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. So if God is with us will it make any difference?
I suspect for ancient people for whom war was an ever present reality, maybe a bit like Syria today but with enemies where you actually saw their faces. With just a spear or sword you had to get pretty close to do anything. They didn’t do war the way we modern “civilised” people do it!! Anyway a quick look at Wikipedia for the list of wars around the world in history will tell you fairly quickly that there was a lot of it going on in every century. And those are just the ones we have records of – there’s nothing about tribal wars happening around the world nor about city wars that occurred often between city states.
One of the key things you have to understand is that where there was war, there was fear. I can understand how much greater the fear was when you faced an enemy armed with a sword just like yours and knew one of you was going to die. In some wars they seemed to do this for weeks or months. So when you are faced with an oversupply of fear and an undersupply of courage, having your God who is mightier than you on your side, can help you face whatever is ahead. This is especially so when you have experienced His provision for you in times of trouble before.
Around 500 years ago a bloke named Michelangelo was asked to paint the ceiling of a church. Instead of asking “do you want it white or beige?”, he took his paints and painted a bible story. This painting is called the “Creation of Adam.” But Adam is already alive and his eyes are open so it seems to me Michelangelo is telling a different story. This is the story you can find all through the bible.
If you look at the painting, you’ll notice God is reaching out toward Adam with enthusiasm. His arm is stretched out and his index finger is pushed forward. The material hanging down tells us He is rushing toward Adam on one of the “chariots of heaven,” held there by the angels. If they are meant to be the propulsion system, you have to say they really look a bit overweight in todays world to be fit enough to carry anything too far. But I’m sure in Michelangelo day they were just fit and healthy looking individuals.
So, it looks as if, even with the splendour of all creation all around, God’s entire being is wrapped up in His desire to close the gap between himself and Adam. He can’t wait to touch him. His hand comes within a hair’s breadth of the hand of the man. And yet Adam has already been given life so he is being offered something else – he is being offered life with God.
Adam on the other hand seems a bit disconnected from the whole thing. He is lying back looking somewhat disinterested in contacting God. I think this describes many blokes I know. They are happy to keep God at a distance – even if it is a small one and never seem interested in trying to make contact. Funny thing is, all he has to do is raise a finger.
Wouldn’t it be terrible to get to the end of your life and realise how much of a better life you could have had if you had raised a finger. If you had put in the slightest effort and tried to contact the God of the universe who had plans for your life. Plans to lead you into a joy filled life. Plans that meant you achieved things that were really important and things that made the world a better place.
I believe God is still right there waiting for you to make the first move.