God With Us: A Message From Executive Director Chris Purnell

 
Chris Purnell

Chris Purnell

 

How good are you at receiving help? Are you the kind of person who accepts it begrudgingly, feeling like you have to somehow pay back the person who brought you soup when you were deathly ill, or who uses phrases like, “I don’t want to be a burden to anybody”?

I get it. No one wants to be a bother and we, especially in America, want to make it on our own. All that talk about bootstraps and whatnot frames our collective identity as a nation. We have these highfalutin—and seriously misguided—notions of being an independent individualist who needs no one, but who is able to help others in need. We want to give, but we get very uncomfortable when it is our turn to receive.

Like when we are so sick that we can’t even get out of bed, much less make our way to the rarefied air of the couch. Or when we’re so desperately sad and grieving a loss that we wonder if we will be able to make it through the next day without our companion. Or when we are confused about what we are feeling as we look at the world around us and marvel at the scale of injustice and abuses of power.

At the Clinic, our clients face these scenarios on a regular basis. There is the persecuted man who longs to see his family again but is bogged down in a byzantine immigration process. There is the domestic violence survivor, brutally betrayed by her spouse and wondering how she will ever feel safe again, how she will pick up the pieces of her life. There is the ex-offender who wants a second chance to be a father and an employee, but with the stain of a felony from twenty years ago holding him back.

When we walk alongside them, we get a master-class in calling out for help. The psalms say that, “God is near to all who call on him, who call on him in truth” (Ps. 145:18). Our clients call out as they feel stymied and oppressed; our staff-team calls out as well; God comes near and provides guidance, comfort, and belonging.

Which is what Jesus did. Jesus, “God with us,” provides us with the comfort we need in the midst of peril and strife; he provides wisdom in the midst of confusion and uncertainty; and he provides belonging when we are forced out by those we thought loved us, those who were supposed to protect us. And he often does this through other people. When you provide comfort, you are belonging with the comforted. When you receive comfort, you are belonging with the one comforting you.

So, may you receive comfort from God as you cry out for help. May you give comfort to those crying out. And may we belong to God as, together, we cry out to the One who is able to satisfy us in the midst of every circumstance.

Until Justice and Peace embrace,

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Chris

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