Sometimes in life we get discouraged and think our lives don’t matter—that we don’t matter to anyone.
Many of us have been through experiences of rejection that have hurt us deeply. But God cares about you immensely!
In their book, “In His Image,” Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand point out, “The pictorial Chinese language combines the two concepts of love and pain in eloquent symbolism. In the character that expresses the highest kind of love, symbols for love and for pain are brushed on top of each other to form a word like ‘pain-love.’ Thus a mother ‘pain-loves’ her child. She pours out her whole being on the child’s behalf. In essence God showed pain-love to creation by emptying Himself and joining us in the Incarnation [when Jesus became human].”
Actually, the incarnation was just the tip of the iceberg. The full extent of God’s “pain-love” for us is seen when Jesus died on the cross for us. He endured the agony of the cross for one reason only: He loves you that much!
Following a horrible forest fire that swept through Yellowstone Park many years ago, an urban legend made its way across the internet claiming to have been reported in National Geographic: “Forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.”
The story ends with Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.”
But those who research urban legends have debunked this story, explaining, “We’ve been getting a lot of emails about this. It’s an inspirational story—which is why we regret that we have to debunk it. The incident was never reported in National Geographic. Nor did it happen at Yellowstone, according to the park’s ornithologist, who adds that it doesn’t ring true of bird behavior anywhere.”
Birds do not endure the flames of a fire to shelter their loved ones. No animal does that instinctively. But Jesus did. He endured the “pain-love” of death on the cross to shelter us under His “wings.”
Henri Nouwen sums it up well: “Keep reminding yourself that your feelings of being unwelcome do not come from God and do not tell the truth. The Prince of Darkness wants you to believe that your life is a mistake and that there is no home for you. But every time you allow these thoughts to affect you, you set out on the road to self-destruction. So you have to keep unmasking the lie and think, speak, and act according to the truth that you are very, very welcome.”
You are, indeed, welcome in the heart of a God who “pain-loves” you so much that He gave His life for you on the cross!
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.