When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2

 

A wooden sculpture of Jesus's head with a crown of thorns.In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we were encouraged by the good news that God is with us in hard times. The Lord once said to his people through the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (43:2).

This is a reassuring promise, to be sure. But, if you’ve been in treacherous waters or blazing fires, either literal or metaphorical, you may wonder how God was with you. I can’t help but think of the thousands of people in the Caribbean and the southern United States whose homes were made uninhabitable by recent flooding from hurricanes. How was God with them in the midst of such a tragedy? How is God with them today?

Scripture teaches that God is with us even when we cannot perceive him. God is watching over us as a good shepherd. God dwells within us through his Spirit. Sometimes we struggle to experience or even affirm God’s presence. But if we base our faith on what God has revealed, then we know that he is with us.

God’s presence is often made real to us through his people. If you’ve followed what has happened since Hurricane Harvey brought such devastation to the Houston area, you’ve no doubt heard many stories of Christians who have reached out with God’s love to help people in need. For example, a friend of mine who just recently moved his family to Houston opened his home to another family that lost theirs. Christians have flocked to Houston from throughout the country in order to offer assistance, comfort, and lots of physical labor. God makes his presence known through his people.

When we speak of God being with us, we think most pointedly of Jesus, the one who was and is Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus is the Word of God Incarnate, God in human form. Though Jesus is not present with us today in bodily form, he is still with us. He is with us through his Spirit. He is with us through his people. He is with us when we are rejoicing and when we are sorrowing. He is with us when we sense his presence and even when we don’t. Remember what Jesus said at the end of Matthew: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:20). Jesus is with us… always! Believe this good news!

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Can you think of times in your life when you sensed God’s presence through his people? When? How did they convey God’s presence to you?

Have you ever been used by God to reassure others of God’s presence? If so, when? What did you do? What was that experience like for you?

Do you need to know that God is with you today?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, again we thank you for the promise that you are with us. You are with us in the good times and in the hard times. Thank you for being with us in the midst of the rising waters, the raging rivers, and the flaming fires.

Yet, you know, Lord, that sometimes we have a hard time perceiving your presence. When we’re suffering, when our lives are falling apart, we wonder if you are there. You can seem so hidden at times, so invisible. Help us in these times to really know that you are there.

Thank you, O God, for being with us in Jesus. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us and among us.

And thank you for the way your people can represent your presence. Help us, dear Lord, to be those people for others, whether we are reaching out to flood victims or showing concern for the person in the office next to us. May people sense that you are there through us.

To you be all the glory! Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryGod’s presence in our struggles at work (Psalm 23)