From Praying the Names of God Week Twenty-Five, Day Three
Strictly speaking, Yahweh Shammah is a name for a city rather than a title of God. But it is so closely associated with God’s presence and power that it has often been equated with a name for God, at least in popular parlance. The name in the New Testament that is most closely associated with it is Immanuel, “God with us,” a name that was given to Jesus. Yahweh Shammah (yah-WEH SHAM-mah), “The LORD is there,” reminds us that we were created both to enjoy and to manifest God’s presence..
And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE. (Ezekiel 48:35)
PRAYING THE NAME
In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9)
Even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (Psalms 139:12)
Praise God: For his compassion.
Offer Thanks: For God’s presence in your life.
Confess: Any tendency to accuse God of abandoning you.
Ask God: To reveal the ways he has been with you even in times of darkness.
Philip Yancey’s book Where Is God When It Hurts? is a perennial bestseller, in part because it hits a nerve. Pain and suffering can damage our faith. Throw us headlong into confusion. Convince us we are motherless children left to fend for ourselves. Almost as bad as the thought of God abandoning us is the notion that he is standing by but with a look of disapproval on his face, with an “I told you so” kind of expression, as if to say that we are only getting what we deserve.
The other day a close friend confided that she and her husband were having difficulty. Dan had suffered irreversible brain damage after a motorcycle accident two years earlier. Since then, he’d become irritable and impulsive, hard to get along with. The two had regular shouting matches. They lived in a constant state of tension. Nothing seemed to help. Not the medicine, not the therapy, not the prayers, not all the effort or goodwill in the world. The loving, mature man Jennifer had known for the first ten years of their married life was gone for good. She found it hard to like Dan, let alone to love him.
Jennifer’s suffering was compounded by her sense of guilt. She chided herself for reacting so poorly to him. Why couldn’t she be more patient, more understanding? The poor man had been in an accident! She could feel God’s displeasure. Then she stumbled on Isaiah 63:9.
In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
This picture of God took her by surprise, suddenly altering the picture she had formulated in her own mind. Instead of seeing Dan and herself at odds while a disapproving God looked on, she saw the three of them together. All three were weeping. All three were grieving what had happened to Dan and to their marriage. She no longer felt divine disapproval but divine compassion. God was standing beside her, sharing her distress.
By transforming her picture of the spiritual reality, God was beginning to transform her understanding of the possibilities for her marriage. The answers might not be swift. They might not be exactly what she had hoped. But there would be relief because God was there, present in the midst of her suffering. Jennifer remembered the words of her favorite psalm: “For even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
Jennifer’s story helped me. I thought about how a single Scripture passage had transformed her sense of how God looked at her. Today, as you face your own set of struggles, join me in reading the words of Isaiah as though God is speaking them directly to you: In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Meet your spiritual ancestors as they really were: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them.