At a large event, I watched as a toddler played gleefully on the bleachers. She was unaware of her fancy dress and the decorum around her. Free and safe as she wriggled between her parents, she was happy.
Then…her foot slipped.
With a terrified wail, she announced to everyone in the crowd her fear and displeasure at the shock.
In reality, the bleacher step her foot slipped off was barely an inch from the ground. There was no blood. Not even a scrape. Her parents each had a hand on her anyway.
That moment of fear, reason would dictate, was no cause for fuss.
Yet I watched as her Mom scooped her up and assured her. Her Dad leaned in with comfort.
They did not try to explain to the precious toddler that the danger was quite small and that her wailing was a tad over-dramatic for the incident.
Instead, they were compassionate.
A toddler doesn’t know an inch from a cliff or a moment of startling from true terror. Children so young can’t grasp the bigger picture. What they need is the correction of comfort.
Don’t be afraid.
The soft murmuring assurance relieves the child without expecting her to figure out the rest. Her perspective changes and her wailing ceases as she is told what matters.
Though she slipped, they picked her up. When she cried, they offered compassion. They were safe and strong and present, even as for a moment she felt all was doomed.
How much more does our Heavenly Father extend this kind of love to His own children, who startle and panic and do not grasp the big picture?
Our pastor recently pointed out that God’s Word says to “weep those who weep”…not judge whether or not they should be weeping. He’s just written a book on godly lament, and lessons like these strike me. I don’t have a knack for empathizing. While I love to encourage, I’m not great with comfort.
Too often, I want to reason with those reeling instead of extending assurance.
Praise the Lord he begins like a good and gentle parent to His children.
“Don’t be afraid, I am with you.”
God said it to Hagar as Ishmael cried.
He said it to Joshua as the people of Israel fretted and fussed.
God said it to Isaiah as God’s chosen people rebelled and were prepared for captivity.
Jesus said it to the disciples, and to God’s flock, before and after His crucifixion.
As if to ensure once and for all we understand the extent of this corrective comfort, Jesus tells John in Revelation 1:17:
“Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last.”
He has always been and always will be…with us. Whether our foots slip off a bleacher or we fall to the most desperate depths, we have a Savior who responds with compassion.
May security in Him be the lifeline we grasp…and extend.
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