I am currently teaching through Nahum at one of our sister churches. As I was preparing to preach on Nahum 1:12-13 on God's Sovereignty Over Suffering, I came across this quote from Andrew White from his autobiographical account of his life as Vicar of Baghdad, in post-Saddam-Hussein Iraq. Andrew observes God’s unmovable presence in a dangerous city :
However dreadful the tragedy, My Lord is there. Amidst the greatest havoc I have witnessed in post war Iraq, or in Gaza, or in Bethlehem during the siege, I have still seen God’s glory…I have seen heavens opened and glimpsed something of the majesty, might and love of God. When life is full of despair, it is only the glory of God that truly sustains. There have been times when everything has gone wrong, when friends and colleagues have been killed, and there has seemed no hope. It is at times like this that I ask God to show me his glory…so I circulate among the powerful people in Pentagon, Congress and Parliament, I ask to see God’s glory, and in all these places I have seen it.
The quote is from The Vicar of Baghdad : Fighting for Peace in the Middle East. The teaching that God is present in suffering really sets apart Christian teaching from other religions in this area because God is not a cosmic observer distant but he truly suffers when we suffer. Here is what Isaiah of Jerusalem said, "In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old..." (Isaiah 63:9). In the same book, as he looks forward to the coming of the Messiah he declares, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5). Here again we see the importance of the doctrine of Trinity. God puts on humanity an suffers with us. God with Us. Not only for our sins, but for all our pain and afflictions. Without Immanuel we are still suffering by ourselves.