During worship at church on Sunday morning, I felt the unmistakable presence of God. It wasn’t something flashy, fancy, or loud; just a quiet sense of peace. It’s hard to describe. It reminded me of the passage in 1 Kings where Elijah was waiting to hear from God, and there was a strong wind, an earthquake and a fire-- but God was in none of these. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
After the third song, the music continued playing, and those who wanted to share their prayers or praise were free to speak. The first prayer request brought me to tears. I don’t even know the people who were being spoken of-- I have heard their names but we have never met-- yet the words that were said broke me, and I could not stop myself from crying. As others shared their prayer requests, I suddenly felt the heaviness of the pain and brokenness and suffering represented in the room.
I said nothing; I don’t think I could have said anything in that moment, honestly. I had no words. It is still hard to find the words for how I felt. It was as though all these feelings were rushing through me and I felt so much love and compassion for everyone in the room, and this deep sense of wanting to be there with people through their pain. Not necessarily to make it all better or fix everyone’s problems-- but to be there. To be a friend, to help them through it, to show them the love and compassion of Jesus.
The next song began, and we sang these words: All of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory. And I cried again. In that moment, I saw so clearly the beauty of God’s love and grace in comparison to our pain. We are afflicted, and he has such compassion for us. We are afflicted, and he walks alongside us. We are afflicted, and in the midst of all our pain, his grace is washing over us. Pain hurts, it is not fun-- and yet, even in the midst of pain, there is so much beauty. There is the opportunity for hope, redemption, and grace.
In the past, I have prayed to see people the way God sees them, to love people the way God loves them. And of course I am not arrogant enough to assume that I could ever see people exactly the same way God sees them, because I am not God. But I do believe God wants to let us see people through his eyes and he wants us to have the same heart for them as he does. And in that moment, I truly believe I had a glimpse of God’s heart for us. In our pain, our doubts, our brokenness, our fears, our suffering, our struggles-- he loves us, his compassion is overwhelming, he wants to walk alongside us through it all.
And I felt the beauty of this little community that was gathered together. We are all connected, and we are reaching out to each other in love, bearing each other’s burdens together, empathizing with each other, showing love and compassion. It is so beautiful. Indeed, these afflictions are eclipsed by glory.