Throughout history, God has made Himself known in many ways. Some of these ways have been spectacular and other ways quite hidden to the vast majority of people. It seems like when we need it most, God reveals Himself and allows us to “feel” His love. There is a book in the Bible called Jeremiah where God’s people found themselves in a desperate place. They were in the midst of a crisis and needed to “feel” God, to know deep down He was with them. They were at the end of a losing war and were just about to be captured and transported to a foreign land to serve the great superpower of their day. While the circumstances of this defeat and captivity were incredibly complex, one thing was sure: the people who were looking to God needed to know they still belonged to Him, and that He would be with them now and in their future captivity.
When the people are at their lowest point, feeling hopeless, they remember this: “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3). God reminds them that He has always loved them in a special way, an everlasting way. Further, He says that He has “drawn” them with unfailing kindness. God has never failed them but has drawn them, which literally means to be led by embrace. They were always led by embrace through a kindness that never failed, and God makes it clear during this time of crisis that He would lead them into the future. This is what it means to be embraced for good by God. It is like a hug from Him at the right moment.
In your life right now, you are being “hugged” by God whether you know it or not. God is hugging you, holding you tight, embracing you for good and leading you with His never-failing kindness. We may not always be looking for this hug, but we are getting it. God has come running, falling on us enthusiastically and showering us with kindness and love. To be embraced for good by God is transformative and we can feel it deep down in our bones.
I’ll never forget when I (York) woke up with an ache in my bones from another night of sleeping in a cold van during a season of homelessness. We had been living in a park, eating nothing more than cereal for days in mid-October. We were desperate. And while we weren’t looking for a hug from God, I personally was desperate for any kind of hope that the day would be different than the ones before. With a thick frost on the windshield of the car, strong rays of light began to penetrate the trees and melt the frost. Soon, a beautiful mist rose from the frost as beams of light invaded the darkness and damp cold of the van. In this one moment as a child, all the certainty I had from my parents about atheism was challenged. It was as if I was receiving a literal hug from God, or at least the universe.
“These are the kinds of people God gives special attention to: those who need a hug the most.”
Looking back, I believe that moment was a time when the very presence of God was invading my life circumstances and I was being wrapped in the warm hug of a God who loved me and wanted to change my circumstances. At times, all of us need that hug from God, particularly during times of loneliness, despair, loss and grief, and fear.
Back to Jeremiah’s story of the people facing desperate times. God continues to say this to those going through this time of crisis, from Jeremiah 31:8-9a:
See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return.
They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble.
As they lose the war and are carried to a land that seems like it is on the other side of the earth, God promises to lead the people by embrace, particularly those who need it most. The blind, the lame, the uber-pregnant moms—a great throng of hurting and helpless people! These are the kinds of people God gives special attention to: those who need a hug the most. They will cry tears of joy, praying as God restores them to a place of safety, beside streams of water on level paths where they will not stumble.
Do you feel like you need a hug from God? Do you feel like one of the blind, lame, and vulnerable Jeremiah talks about here? Good news: God’s love is kind, it doesn’t fail, and He is hugging you, even right now.
Through experiencing the embrace of God, we can move from a sense of isolation and uncertainty to knowing that we belong. We can go through times of deep crisis with a sense of God’s presence, knowing that, no matter what, God will continue to lead us with an unfailing kindness. Physical touch is at the center of human relationships, but it is also how we can experience the embrace of God. We can be embraced for good as we respond to God’s work in our lives. Singing and praying are just two examples of how we can involve our bodies in a relationship with God. Some people, as they run or work out, do so as a response to God. Artists, as they paint or dance, do so as an expression of passion back to God. Medical practitioners, postal workers, law enforcement professionals, and ride-sharing drivers can do their physical activities throughout the day as expressions of worship to God too. Whether we are wielding a stethoscope, throwing packages on people’s porches, handling difficult and dangerous circumstances, or driving someone to the airport, all physical activity can be “devoted” to God, expressions of worship.
When we devote our physical selves to God, we literally hug God back, and in this embrace, we experience Him in a powerful way. In its simplest and often easiest expression, however, we can hug God back by acknowledging His presence through prayer and song. Singing and praying are a core part of a relationship with God. These practices allow us to feel God drawing us to Himself. This is how God touches us and we touch Him in a way that is actually more real than the touch we experience from those around us. This kind of touch never crosses the line, never arouses suspicion or anxiety. This touch never violates trust or causes harm—it is the touch we were made for and often don’t realize we need because we’ve gone without it for so very long.
by Gary Chapman and R. York Moore
In a world of varying beliefs and endless opportunities, determining how to spend our lives can seem impossible. And even more difficult than...
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