Heather English on Drawing Near to Christ in Days of Distance

Oh that we could become like a child and draw near to Christ.

It was on a quiet, quarantine morning when I saw them. Maybe it was the consecutive days of social distance that prepared me for this encounter. Perhaps it was the loneliness of isolation that humbled me for this moment. Surely it was the Lord’s nearness, through His Word and by His Spirit, that opened my eyes to see six words leaping right off the page of my Bible. There they were in the text of Mark 10:16, familiar and at-once brand-new.

“He took them in his arms.”
What was it about this simple sentence that captured my attention and tugged at my emotions? Those six words tapped a longing within me, caused by weeks of physical separation from dear family members and friends, and my beloved church congregation. The mere thought of being enveloped in Jesus’ arms, His presence tangible, was very moving for me that morning.

Minutes later, I was shaken out of my reverie as my little girl came bounding down the stairs and made a beeline for my arms. Her early morning embrace is one of my favorite things about our relationship. Every day without fail, this joyful child wakes up and runs straight to me. She doesn’t stop to wonder if I’d like to see her or hug her; she doesn’t question whether or not she belongs to me. Rather, she implicitly (and correctly!) assumes that she is welcome in my presence. How I long to embrace my heavenly Parent with that same trust and joy like a child at the start of each day!

Jesus Responds to Our Longing
All of us are experiencing longing in one way or another, aren’t we? In these days of distance, quarantine has kept us away from the places that hold our attention and the people who hold us in their arms. We long for a return to the closeness of these places and people that we knew before a tiny virus wrecked our routines and shook our security. We all feel a degree of distance from normal reality. Some of us feel distant to the degree that depression and anxiety have left us hovering at the periphery of everyday life. Some feel distant in the form of shifting status and identity. For some, our work has been deemed non-essential, and we slowly drift away from the sense of purpose we knew before. Perhaps this distance has left some of us feeling utterly insignificant, even child-like in our helplessness and inability to control the circumstances that seem so much stronger that we are.

By God’s grace for the Christian believer, days of distance and seasons of longing are attended by the loving presence and response of Jesus Christ. James 4:8 promises, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” How are we to draw near to the Great I AM, who is seated on His throne in Heaven, invisible and physically intangible to us now? Scripture helps us with many pictures of people and Jesus drawing near to one another during His earthly ministry. Jesus regularly and willingly came physically close to those who were poor, lowly, hurting, and rejected by others. The mighty King of Kings even drew near to little children, as Mark 10:13-16 reveals.

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all share nearly identical details of this scene where Jesus drew near to little children (Matthew 19:13-15, Luke 18:15-17). In this story, Jesus’ loving response to children reveals three life-giving truths.

1. Jesus invites us to draw near… when we long for Him.
“Let them come to me.” (Mark 10:14)
Despite His disciples’ rebuke, Jesus invited the children to draw near. He gathered them out of the crowd. He touched them with his hands. He took them in His arms. It was His act of choosing them that determined their value. He declared them valuable and welcomed them to draw close. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have full access to a relationship with Him in which we will find our value. When we trust Him with our lives, He returns a blessing on us!

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Source: Church Leaders