14th March 2014

Presence In Distress 

In their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.”
Isaiah 63:9 (NIV UK)

God is present when we are distressed. 

The Israelites felt that God was most real when they were victorious in battle or when a calamity had been averted. Their view of God was that he was the god of intervention and delivery. If God did not save them in some way, he must be afar off, absent from the situation. Perhaps, they thought, God had turned his back on them because he was displeased with their sinfulness. Isaiah knew that, although God is “mighty to save” (63:1), God does not intervene necessarily in the way we think he should. Therefore it could seem to the Israelites that God had not delivered them. God, however, is always sending the “angel of his presence”: this is a term used in the Old Testament to indicate the personal, abiding, comforting presence of God’s Spirit. 

Christians today can relate to how the Israelites felt. If all is going well, we think God is with us; if all is going not so well, maybe it’s because we have sinned and God is distancing himself from us as a result. Suffering, however, is not necessarily the result of sin. We all share in “the same kind of sufferings” with the rest of humanity (1 Peter 5:9), and our distress may not have any connection with a wrongdoing on our part. 

Isaiah’s point is that God feels our pains as his own. We know that in Christ our troubles are also his. Our sorrows and anguish are shared with him. When we mourn he mourns with us; when we weep, he is there beside us: his comforting presence abides with us always. We may not be rescued from whatever the problems are, but throughout we can find peace and comfort in God’s constant, unbroken presence. 

God’s empathy for us in our distress is not one directional. Empathic compassion is omnidirectional: what we receive we also give to others. Not only are our own sufferings in the faith a participation in Christ’s suffering (see Philippian 3:10), but they also provide a setting for us to let Christ’s compassion for us flow through us to others. God reminds Christians to remember “those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). 

Let the angel of God’s presence comfort you when you are in distress. 

Eternal Father, thank you for the re-assurance of your presence at all times, and that you are with us in our distress.  In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson


openbibleAbout the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland.  You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations.  For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

Email:  admin@daybyday.org.uk

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