My brother and I were walking in downtown San Diego on our way to dinner when I heard a voice that stopped me in my tracks. I hadn’t seen where the voice came from or who it belonged to, but amidst the noise of the crowded city streets these words found their way deep into my heart.
I stopped, took two steps back, and turned towards a man in the shadows. “What did you say?” I asked.
“Can you help me out? I haven’t eaten all day,” said the voice.
There was something humble and honest about him.
“Sure. Can we buy you dinner?” we asked.
Across the street was a small deli where he picked out a loaf of bread along with some meat and cheese. After we paid for it and stepped outside, I said to the man, “What’s your name?”
“Chris, I’m John and this is my brother Jim. We want you to know that God loves you and this dinner tonight is from him.”
The next thing he said shocked me. Even now, months later, his words still ring clearly in my mind.
“I know God loves me whether I eat or not,” Chris said.
I didn’t know what to say. In my 35 years of life, I’ve never heard anyone say that.
And he said it with such confidence. He said it out of experience. I’m sure there were days Chris hadn’t eaten at all and other times he had only very little. But his confidence in God’s love was unshakeable.
After a moment of silence he burst out saying, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”
And I picked it up, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
“…who pardons your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,” he finished.
“That’s Psalm 103!” I exclaimed. “You have the word in here,” I said pointing to my temple.
“No, I have the word in here,” he said pointing to his heart.
We gave Chris hugs and sent him on his way with some extra money so he could get a shower. Jim and I carried on to dinner, blown away by our interaction with Chris. Chris had faced hunger, poverty, and homelessness and found God faithful. At rock bottom, God was there.
I kept wondering, could I say, “I know God loves me whether I eat or not”? Or if the food ran out, the fridge went empty, and the income dried up, would I say that God failed me, that God was not good, not loving, not faithful? But if God is loving even when the food runs out, then why I am worried about anything?
Chris had a huge view of God and it was challenging. I want to see God the way he does, as a God who doesn’t owe me anything, not even food. God knows what I need and when I need it and I can trust that he gives and takes away in his wisdom and for his purposes. Whether I have little or much, whether I am in need or have plenty, whether I am hungry or abound, I want God’s word deep in my heart so that I can say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me.”