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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Brian Williams' Unintentional Theology

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was interviewed by the magazine Men’s Journal. Buried in the interview, between quips about Iraq and quotes regarding journalistic lessons from his distinguished career, was a story that illustrated a biblical truth that serves as a powerful reminder of how we should exercise our faith.

Williams was asked by the magazine what was the most cherished possession he had ever lost. The newsman recounted a story from when he was seven years old.

He had seen a picture (which has now become an iconic image from the era) of President Lyndon Johnson listening to tapes from his future son-in-law, describing combat in Vietnam. He was so impacted by the picture that he decided to write the president a letter. Williams said that the letter was chosen for the president’s evening reading, but he later lost the personal response President Johnson had written back to him. Williams described the incredible impact that it had on him as a child—that the same letter he penned at the kitchen table of his parents’ house was read by the President of the United States.

The story is inspiring; to think that for one night, a seven-year-old kid in New Jersey had the ear of the leader of the free world.

Sometimes I think we take for granted (at least I know that sometimes I do) that God has allowed us to talk to Him whenever we want.

The thing that makes Williams’ story so interesting is the fact that the odds of his letter being chosen out of the thousands received by the White House every day were so small, that something had to have stuck out. There was something special in the insight and perspective of a little kid that President Johnson took time to read—not to mention personally respond—to his letter.

But for a Christian, that same privilege is afforded to us no matter what our plea may be. Whether it’s for the needs of family and friends, for favor in situations we’re facing in daily life, or just for “giving thanks” for the sandwich we’re about to eat, God is listening. All we have to do is pray, and we have His ear. The creator of the universe is intently listening.

And for God, there’s something special about faith like a child.

The picture itself, the one Williams was responding to, also offers some insight into the spiritual allegory. President Johnson is shown alone at an empty desk, his head down, obviously distraught as a reel-to-reel player plays back the tape from Vietnam. It’s the kind of picture that is so compelling that even a young child would feel inspired to respond.

It’s impossible to imagine the heartbreak of hearing from someone you love in a terrible situation. But for God, who is all-knowing and all-seeing, the burdens of the world and His children are always there. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is grieved by unrighteousness (Ephesians 4:29-31).

Perhaps no other story shows the heart of Christ towards the ones He loves like the story of Lazarus. After hearing about the worsening condition of His friend, Jesus told Lazarus’ family, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

However, when Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus several days later, His friend had already died and had “been in the tomb for four days.” When He saw Lazarus’ family grieving, the Bible says, “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And as one of the most famous lines in Scripture recounts, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Of course, Jesus went on to raise Lazarus from the dead, but even though He knew the outcome from the beginning, the sorrow of seeing family members in pain moved Him to tears. The Savior of the world wept openly when His followers were grieving.

And this is the God we serve.

God sees everything we go through. Every day, God sees families grieve, people suffering from loss, and He too heard those tapes that told of the horrors of war in Vietnam. And if the story of Lazarus tells us something, it’s that no matter what the outcome of situations may be, God is deeply moved by the pain and difficulties of His children.

It’s an amazing thing to help those that are in need, to feed those that are hungry, to comfort those that are suffering and to tell them about salvation in God—and we’re called to serve. But when we pray, God hears us too. We can’t do everything … but we can always pray.

In the book of Revelation, John is recounting a vision of the last days. He describes a “new heaven and a new earth” that will be ushered in. In Revelation 21:4 John says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Just like in the story of Lazarus, God knows the outcome of every situation, even we when don’t. He knows what great things eternity has in store for His followers, even though “for now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12). He knows about a time when there will be no pain and suffering. But like the story of Lazarus, Jesus still describes a perfect love that He desires for His children, one that will “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12).

It was that exercise of compassion that Paul talked about in Romans—mourning with those who mourn—that connected a little kid, who would go on to be a famous news anchor, to the President of the United States. And there’s something about the compassionate prayers of the Church—for those that are lost, for those that are hurting, those that are in need—that connects us with the heart of God.

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