Imagine you’re a beggar on the streets of a big city. You’re homeless and penniless and you watch people go past you, most of them not even glancing in your direction. Now and again someone throws a coin into your hat without stopping. Now and again – more rarely – you get the odd glimpse of real care and compassion from someone. Now and again you even get a mug of hot soup or a bed for the night. Then one day someone stops, listens to your painful story of how you lost your home and your job and everything, looks at you with real compassion in their eyes, and then pulls a brown envelope out of a shabby coat pocket and hands it to you, saying: “I’m sorry, this is all I’ve got.”
You watch this person go, and judging by the sorry state of their coat and their scruffy shoes, you don’t expect this envelope to hold anything of value. Still, you sigh to yourself, it’s the thought that counts – this person obviously did care. The look in their eyes was for real.
You open the crumpled brown envelope, and you see a cheque for ten million dollars.
“This is all you’ve got?” you feel like yelling, but the stranger has long disappeared into the crowds. You’re in tears, laughing and crying and unable to believe your eyes. It will probably not start sinking in until after you’ve gone to a bank and found that this cheque is for real, until after you’ve started spending some of this fortune and living the new life that this shocking gift allows you to live. It will probably never stop amazing you – to your dying day you will remember how someone said “I’m sorry, this is all I’ve got” and then gave you everything.
So where am I going with this story?
I live in a world full of pain and suffering. I can throw the odd coin at a beggar, I can offer a hug and a listening ear to a friend who is going through a hard time, I can do a little bit here and there to help someone in particular, but no matter how much I care, I can’t make everything ok. What I can do is point you to the one who really can help you. I can take out the crumpled brown envelope from my shabby coat pocket and say: sorry, this is all I’ve got – but I know that this is a really big “all” and that this is really the only way to sort your life out. I am metaphorically an ex-beggar living in a mansion and enjoying a new life which I hope I’ll never stop being amazed at, because Jesus gave me the most amazing gift ever, and it’s a gift I want to pass on to you too.
Would your life then be without pain and suffering, once you put your faith in Jesus? No, I’m not going to lie to you and give you false promises. Jesus doesn’t isolate us in some kind of pain-free bubble. But he is the one who helps me cope. He is the one who helps me here and now, giving me strength to carry on. Knowing that there is someone who absolutely unconditionally always always loved, loves and will carry on loving me – that is such a powerful thing! It’s something that we humans need very deeply, we go chasing after it in all sorts of places and a huge part of our emotional pain is because of this very deep need never being met completely. We meet a fellow human being and think this is the one, this person makes me feel on top of the world, I feel great when we’re together – but every human being will ultimately, inevitably let us down at some point or other. Even if my husband was perfect, I still know that he could one day get hit by a bus and not be there any more – no human being can fill that need 24/7 forever and ever. Only God can.
So this metaphorical cheque I want to pass on to you – it gives you 24/7 support from God himself. And it gives you hope for the future, which is kind of handy when life feels bleak – and let’s face it, life often tends to do that.
When I started writing that story I first had the beggar open a crumpled brown paper package to find a chunk of gold inside, but then I changed the chunk of gold to a cheque – why? Because when you receive a cheque, there are extra questions of trust: is the signature for real? is there enough money in that person’s bank account? can I really access the promised funds, or is this just a worthless piece of paper?
And so many people hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and don’t even try cashing the cheque, thinking there must be a catch somewhere, not trusting that the signature is really in God’s own handwriting and that yes, he can and he will live up to his promises.
Your part? your part is admitting you need it, and cashing the cheque.
and living gratefully ever after.
Jesus said: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 18:28-30)