We are frail, fragile even, both wonderfully and yet fearfully made. Once created, our bodies house souls that will live on forever. We are spirits of imagination, creativity, and insight, yet an attack upon our bodies by a microscopic germ or virus, a hidden tendency in our DNA, or an incident such as a fall or an accident can derail the rest of our physical existence. As Rich Mullins sang, “With this our hells and our heavens, so few inches apart, we are not as strong as we think we are.”
Pain, tragedy, and sickness teach us much about our fragility. A normal life becomes one that is shut-in and lonely, one where former goals are no longer attainable. Such a tragedy can arrive unexpectedly for any of us. We are not masters of our own destinies, regardless of what the positive thinking gurus say. A small thing can change everything.
Winter blasted in with temperatures near zero. Were it not for my heated car, my down coat, and my ability to keep myself safe from the elements, I wouldn’t survive the day outside. My vehicle rockets along the highway, passing other vehicles, each transporting an immortal soul in a fragile body. Along the interstate, I frequently pass blackened crash marks, damaged barriers, tire-tread skids across all lanes of traffic, evidence of a previous tragedy.
One moment’s lapse of attention, one glance at a cellphone, one skid on the ice, and my soul may leave my body and wing its way homeward. This fragility and temporal state of our bodies often troubles our minds and souls. We must die one day. We will lose control of our bodies. We will suffer. The same is true for everyone we love, work with, worship with, and pass along the way. As souls entrapped in physical bodies, beings of genius, spiritual worth, and potential power made in the very image of God, these realities are what make life on this planet difficult.
And yet, these realities are what make Jesus the dearest.
Before creation, He had already determined to become one of us. When He set the plan in motion, created our universe, and formed the first human beings, He knew He would put on human flesh and join us on this earth – Emmanuel, God with us. He knew he would compress His deity into a human frame where He would never be quite at home and where He would suffer and die a gruesome death.
Yet He did it anyway. He chose that role for Himself. Why?
Because of love.
We often doubt God’s love, because we cannot feel it in a given situation, because we often feel as if we’re alone, because we may not see the living evidence of it in a tragedy, because our prayers for healing and mercy have been met with a continuation of the trial. But the very fact that an omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful God would choose to confine Himself in human flesh, live with us, and die for us, is the rock solid, eternal proof that we are indeed loved by God. Who would choose this fragility, this powerlessness, this weakness of a temporal frame made of clay and bone?
I would not. I would stay put, thank you.
But from eternity Jesus pressed toward fulfilling this. He set His face toward Jerusalem and the cross, aiming toward His purpose. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14). And now, He remains forever in His glorified body, a foretaste of what we will one day be.
We remember the frail and tiny infant God at Christmas time. God in the flesh, diapered and swaddled, confined and constrained in the most human way. The mere fact of His coming and His dying for us is all the evidence needed to prove His love.
When you feel the opposite, when you think He surely does not care for you, remember what it is to be frail, weak, sick, and suffering, and remind yourself that God in Christ voluntarily chose that to gain you, to offer you eternity with Him, so that you would know that He also knows what it is to suffer.
You are not alone. You are loved.
“While we try to avoid conflict, Jesus Christ intentionally engaged hardship! Taking on pain provided the clearest means of demonstrating God’s love. In taking brokenness upon Himself, Jesus Christ uniquely used the only method that would heal the wounded world” (Robert L. Wise, When There is No Miracle, Kregel, pg. 65).