January 5, 2023
God’s Presence in Troubled Times
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you (Isaiah 43:2 NLT).
Friend to Friend
When I sat at my daughter’s bedside in the hospital, I wondered if life would ever look the same. After going into septic shock, she could only breathe with the help of a ventilator, and our pediatrician warned us that she might not live through the night. I couldn’t imagine life without our spunky five-year-old. I had so many questions and feelings, but in that room, I felt God’s presence thick in the air.
Throughout the next two weeks in the hospital she slowly recovered, coming off the ventilator only to battle a life-threatening blood clot. That was a season when smaller issues like arriving late to an appointment, locking my keys in the car, or feeling weary over long to-do lists paled in comparison to our current crisis. The seasons when trials are intense or long are described by the prophet Isaiah with metaphors like “deep waters,” “rivers of difficulty,” and the “fires of oppression.” These aren’t irritations; rather, these are times when it feels like the ground is shaking beneath our feet.
Today’s truth in Isaiah comforts us as we remember that God doesn’t remove all the difficulties in our lives, but He does comfort us with His presence. Whether you are in the shallow or deep end with your own personal trials, you can rest assured in the truth that God created, formed, and ransomed you. He calls you by name promising to be with you because He is your God. He says you are precious and loved, so you shouldn’t be afraid. No one can snatch you out of His hand.
The Hebrew word translated into our English word for comfort is nacham. It means “to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted.” God directed these words to the Israelites who would become familiar with crisis when their cities would burn, and they would be relocated from their homeland to the foreign land of Babylon. The Lord wouldn’t abandon them, but He would allow the discipline of exile. Their striving for idols and human comforts wouldn’t deliver them. Eventually, their pain would give them vision to see their need for the Lord and His deliverance. Isaiah’s message pointed them to the identity of the One who would save them. He would be present in their trials, and He will be present in ours.
We never want to forget that we can trust God’s comfort even when our lives are turned upside down. Later in chapter 43:24-25, Isaiah reveals that the Lord wouldn’t rescue His people because they were well behaved. He comforted them because He is a faithful and forgiving God.
In Isaiah 43, we discover God’s comforting words:
• I will be with you in difficult times. (43:2)
• You are precious, honored, and I love you. (43:4)
• I will blot out your sins and never think of them again. (43:25)
These are words of comfort we can share with others in their pain. When my daughter was in the hospital, a man in our church wrote us a letter that I could barely finish for the tears welling up in my eyes. He attended our church, but I didn’t know him personally. He had heard the updates regarding our daughter during a church service, and he felt nudged by the Holy Spirit to take a day off work so that he could fast and pray for my daughter’s recovery. Knowing that someone was going before God’s throne in prayer alongside us on behalf of my daughter strengthened our faith and comforted our family. In addition, meals from our small group, cards from fellow kindergarten students, and books and games to pass the time in the hospital supported our family in practical ways.
The Lord helps us through our difficulties with His love and Presence, but He also calls us to share His comfort with others.
No matter what the past week, month, or year has held for us, we can start afresh today by receiving God’s comfort and helping others do the same. Whether you are coming out of a trial, in the midst of the fire, or headed into the flames, hold onto the truth that the Lord loves you, and He is nearer than you think.
Lord, You know what I’m walking through right now. Comfort me so that I can comfort others for Your honor and glory. Help me to know what to say and what not to say. Thank You for loving me, forgiving me, and assuring me that I won’t drown in this river of difficulty! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
What deep waters are you currently walking through? How does God’s presence bring you comfort in the midst of your challenges?
More from the Girlfriends
Check out Melissa’s new Bible study titled Isaiah: Striving Less and Trusting God More for an in-depth study of the book of Isaiah. https://bit.ly/3x0ilUT
© 2023 by Melissa Spoelstra. All rights reserved.
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Originally published Thursday, 05 January 2023.