Imagine a soldier deployed in active duty. He’s newly married and as such he writes a brief letter every morning to his bride back home. She delights to receive each brief note before going over to a calendar on her fridge and checking off another day. She keeps meticulous track of when he will return to her.
She knows what we all know in our gut: that while a note from her love is great his physical presence is so much better.
When they finally reunite, it will be not under circumstances of war—but of peace. But how much more do we long for company when we are in situations of threat, fear, and anxiety?
God designed us to be in close and loving community. And what follows is a brief (non exhaustive!) survey of the “ministry of presence” sweeping through the Bible.
ADAM AND EVE (Genesis 2:18-24)
From the beginning of creation, in His perfect wisdom and kindness, God knew that it was not good for us to be alone. As man and woman were created in the image of God, one way we reflect God is that He is a relational being Himself – three persons in one God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A great mystery which is the origin of love and relationship. They have always existed in perfect love and relationship for all of time.
JOB’S FRIENDS (Job 2:11-13)
The ministry of presence is also put on full display in the life of Job. The MVP in the game of pain and suffering. At first, his friends came to him and sat with him in his grief. They helped carry his burden and comforted him by entering in. They tore their own clothes and sat with him in the dirt for seven days without saying a word. His suffering was too great for words. Then when he was ready to speak they listened. It’s more healing for us to be there with the broken than to try and fix them. When these friends finally do start speaking, their words—while possibly true theologically—were like salt in Job’s wounds. Let us remember to be quick to listen, slow to speak (James 1:19). We don’t need all the answers or a resolution, but we can always be a present comfort. And we can always point to the One who does have all the answers.
THE COMFORTER (Psalm 23:4)
We were never promised we’d be spared pain and suffering in this life. But, in pain and suffering, we were promised that the Lord would be with us. Though one day all pain and suffering will be no more, until then we have real trials we must endure. God uses the body of Christ to bring about comfort, endurance and encouragement through His Spirit who is present and in our midst. We’ll all walk through that valley of death at some point, He’s not promised us a way around it. But He has promised to be with us, and that’s a generous heaping of hope.
ONE ANOTHER (Galatians 6:2)
This is just one of over 50 “one another” verses in the Bible. While our faith is personal, our journey should never be private. Following Christ is to be part of His family. We are called to serve and put others ahead of ourselves. Bearing the burden of one another is a means of showing the love and heart that the Father has for us. Many times the pain and burden of an individual is too heavy to carry on their own. There are many practical ways of carrying someone’s burden, but also simply being available or offering a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen is the most impactful thing you can do for someone.
SENT OUT TWO BY TWO (Mark 6:7)
Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. He knew they would experience fear, face rejection, persecution, sadness, hunger, and thirst. Not only could they lean on one another for guidance, but also strengthen one another during the tough times that lied ahead of them.
INCARNATION BETTER THAN LAW (John 1:14)
Jesus entered into His own creation to be with us and rescue us. The Creator limiting Himself within creation. The law was never meant to save us, but only to show us we needed rescuing. It took Immanuel; God with us to actually change our hearts to desire Him. He didn’t come into the world to condemn—the law has already done that—but to save the lost. (John 3:17)
JESUS WEPT (John 11:1-44)
Jesus knew what He was about to do for Lazarus. Yet, He still entered into the pain and sadness of Lazarus’ sisters and friends – and wept with them! This is the embodiment of truth, goodness, and beauty. He knew the power He held, yet became vulnerable and identified with the fragility of his friends. The shortest verse in the Bible is one of the biggest examples of the compassion of Christ. May we also Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
THE GREAT COMMISSION (Matthew 28:18-20)
Our presence with one another points to the greatest presence we could ever know. Though Jesus was leaving the world bodily, He would leave us a greater gift. By sending His Spirit He became closer to us. Him in us and us in Him. We are forever joined to Him and nothing can snatch us away from Him, not even death itself (Romans 8:38).
DWELLING WITH US AGAIN AND FOREVER (Revelation 21:3-4)
We were made to be with Christ. Our great hope is that we will finally be with Him face to face forever. Until He comes to finally make all things right again, we can best show His presence through the various gifts and the fruit of the Spirit He gives us to display. Until He wipes away all of our tears, let’s sit in the dirt and wipe as many tears away from one another as we can.
HOPE ON THE HORIZON
While we wait to finally see Jesus face to face, may we ask Him to help us glorify Him by reflecting His presence in other’s dark valleys by entering into their hurt and pain as they are renewed by the Gospel as a foretaste of what is to come when Jesus finally ends all pain and sadness.
Love God, love each other.