The week before Christmas one of my dear friends’ young son was rushed to the hospital. He was there for days, along with my friend and her husband, as doctors figured out what was causing his pain and then took steps to ease it. She shared updates on Facebook faithfully, asking us to pray and giving us reports from cautious, compassionate doctors. My friend’s son recovered from his sudden illness and they eventually returned home for a belated Christmas. I smiled as I saw pictures of their better-late-than-never celebration and knew they must feel such relief after tense, frightening days spent in the hospital.
Just days after Christmas another friend’s husband was admitted to the hospital. Another sudden illness. More compassionate, concerned doctors. But this time, the patient didn’t return home. Much to my (and everyone’s) shock and deep sadness, he passed away a few days ago. As I re-read both friends’ Facebook updates about their hospital stays, I remembered some of my own visits to hospitals.
I remembered settling into more than one waiting room as grandparents stopped fighting and began fading. I recalled, in a blurry way, the days my oldest daughter lived in the NICU and I recovered down the hall. I remembered waiting for doctor’s updates and playing the sometimes literal, sometimes figurative game of telephone to make sure everyone heard the latest news. I remembered the relief of a waited-for discharge, and I remembered the weight of a final prognosis. Prayers, tears, laughter, reminiscing, letting go of that breath we’d all been holding, holding each other, falling to our knees, hiding our faces — all these things came to mind, in a jumble, as I thought about my friends’ recent days.
But most of all, I remembered how God was with us.
God was with us when my brother-in-law was in a fatal motorcycle accident, as we waited to hear the doctor’s news, to say a final goodbye, to tell other loved ones what had happened. And He was with us when my granny lay in her bed, and the cousins gathered with photos and stories and snacks, unsure of the proper way to behave but certain we wanted to be together. God was with us when my baby girl was declared healthy and strong, when my second baby was announced a girl, when my father-in-law was finally healed and released from the room in which he’d been treated for weeks.
And God was with my friends when they received good news and bad, when they heard answers and when they faced silence, when they felt crushed by grief and buoyed by relief. God was there. He was with them.
Last month we sang, “O come, o come, Emmanuel,” as we prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the physical God-man who came to live with us, to walk beside us, to be with us. But God isn’t just with us at Christmas. He remains with us all year long, through every season.
God is with us on Christmas Day, sure; but He’s also with us every day. He’s with us on the good days and the horrible days, the terrifying days and the amazing days, the scary days and the boring days. He’s with us every day.
God is with us when the phone rings in the middle of the night and when the phone doesn’t ring at all. He’s with us when we watch the news or overhear the conversation or open the mail. He’s with us when the pain is unbearable, when the truth is unfathomable, when we are determined not to sleep because it will all still be true when we wake. God is with us when we are limp with shock, weak with grief, too devastated to talk or move or even, sometimes, cry.
He is with us.
Sometimes when we pray, when we beg God for answers or healing or provision or repentance, it seems as if His answer is “no.” Even when we know that answer may actually be “not yet” or “not this way,” the pain of this world can be brutal and impossible to bear. But even when the answers are not what we so desperately want, God is still with us. He may not give us our earthly desires, but He never walks away. He stays. He is with us.
My friend Sara Frankl heard God’s “no” many times during her short life. Plagued by a terminal illness and chronic pain, she was eventually left home-bound and, frequently, alone. Unable to leave her home or escape her broken body, she had every human right to resent her situation, to call it a prison, to really soak in her solitude.
Instead, she turned to the God she knew never left her side. She leaned on Him, knowing that no matter His answers, His arms were always firmly around her. She faced the hard reality of her illness and her life, but still she said . . .
“If this is my life, if this is where I am, then this is where God is, too.”
She knew that no matter what, God is with us. And in these post-Christmas days I am reminded that no matter the season, God is with us. Wherever we go, whatever we face, God is with us.
He is with us. He is with YOU.
What are you facing today? Are you seeking answers or relief or healing or strength? Have you received the news, the diagnosis, the announcement that left you feeling lost? You are not in this alone. God is with you. Whether this year brings you something brilliant and beautiful or something traumatic and devastating, God will be with you. He will hold you and comfort you and stand with you.
God is with you. God is with us all.