Poet Christian Wiman, some time after being diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer, reflected on his ordeal, writing, “I have passed through pain I could never have imagined, pain that seemed to incinerate all my thoughts of God and to leave me sitting there in the ashes, alone.” But he found hope in the powerful presence of Jesus. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ ” (Matthew 27:46). In times of great suffering, Wiman realized, only the One who carried all human suffering can sustain us.
While experiencing the hardships of captivity, the Israelites needed reassurance of His presence, and the prophet Isaiah gave them that encouragement. Although they were enduring the consequences of their sin, Isaiah still told them not to fret or fear. God had created them with painstaking care and redeemed them with His power (Isaiah 43:1). Despite everything they were going through, they were still loved by and precious to God (Isaiah 43:4). And no matter what they endured in the future—whether “rivers of difficulty” or “fire of oppression”—God would be with them (Isaiah 43:2). He had sustained them with His presence in the past, and He could be trusted to do so again in the future (Isaiah 43:3-4).
Whether we’re suffering from the consequences of our sin or, like Christian Wiman, suffering pain that is simply a result of living in a fallen world, we need more than glib answers. In the face of overwhelming dread and pain, we can find strength and hope only through the powerful presence of the One who will never let us go (Isaiah 43:13).
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: 1 Kings 17:1-24
Read Deuteronomy 20:1 and 31:8. What did God promise when He delivered Israel from Egypt? What are the implications of knowing that God is with us in our suffering?
What spiritual shifts might you need to make in order to believe that God is with you in your suffering? How does Jesus’ example of facing suffering encourage you?