These four simple sentences can be profound or they can be trite slogans thrown in the direction of hurting folks when we don't know what to say. So which is really true? Are they just trite "feel good" phrases that are empty words? Are they profound truths about the nature of God? And how do we know?
They can be truly profound if we actually believe them. They are profound if we know what makes these four simple sentences into divine promises. They are profound if we realize why we can trust they are true.
So how can we?
The answer, as my mentor in college would say, begins by writing a large "U" on a piece of paper. This "U" illustrates history's most profound truth. This "U" helps us understand the reason that we can trust that the four divine promises are true. This "U" also helps describe the outline of the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John — called the prologue (John 1:1-18) — and also is the outline for the earliest and best known hymn we have from the first century church (Philippians 2:5-11).
"U" — yeah, I'm asking you to write it down on a piece of paper. No curlies on either end of the "U" — just a plain, simple capital "U"!
At the top left of the "U" that you drew, write, "With God!"
At the top right of the "U" that you drew, write, "With God!"
Now at the bottom of the "U" right in the middle, write, "With Us!"
These simple sentences, these divine promises, are profound because God sees, hears, knows, and cares about us — he cares about our problems and about our struggle with sin, death, disease, and heartbreak. God sees, hears, knows, and cares not just because God is God and is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. God sees, hears, knows, and cares because God has been with us and among us as one of us in human form!
The fancy term for this is INCARNATION. The easier way to understand this is Jesus. Jesus was with God in glory. He left it all, even his rights and protection and power, to be with us. God did this in Jesus to know what it is like to be contained and constrained by mortal flesh — not from the safe distance of a far away heaven, but by pitching his tent in our own neighborhood (John 1:14 MSG). To put it bluntly, Jesus showed us that God could get hungry, thirsty, tempted, hurt, and die. It sounds crazy and scandalous and beyond comprehension. Yet, the Gospel of John simply invites us to follow Jesus to "Come and see" God in action among us (John 1:29; John 1:46; John 4:29). And as Jesus goes through these very human things, another set of truths are revealed.
God sees our needs, our problems, our hurts, our shame, our hypocrisy, our struggles, our seeking, our desire for answers... and God sees it "up close and personal" in Jesus! In Jesus, God sees us up close when the smell of death is in the air, or stomachs are growling because they are empty, or hearts are breaking because a loved one has died.
God hears our words, but beyond our words, because of Jesus, we know he hears our hearts — things so twisted or confused or distorted or so off base that we can even come up with the words to say what we feel. God hears all of this "up close and personal" in Jesus!
God knows what our deepest needs are — whether those needs are hungry stomachs, abusive parents, or courage in the tempest of life's greatest storms. God experienced those things with us, "up close and personal," in Jesus!
God cares about all of our mess — good stuff, bad stuff, and just stuff stuff. We know because Jesus steps into a lot of messes and brings people out of them more whole and much more full of hope. God cares, "up close and personal," in Jesus!
And why did God do all of this for us?
He loves me and... U!
Don't believe me?
Too good to be true?
Then go back and read those two passages again (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11). Go read the story of Jesus again (found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible), and as you read, simply pray asking, "God please show yourself to me in the words and life of Jesus." When you do, you will realize that the way Jesus dealt with people in need around him is the way he would deal with U!
The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 NIV).
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (John 1:18 NIV).