I Am: Who Does God Say He Is?
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
—Romans 9:22-24 (NIV)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
—Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
—Matthew 11:29 (NIV)
Israel suffered the pain of conquest and exile from the promised land. Once they were back in their own land, they were occupied by a foreign power. God had promised a Messiah, but they wondered “How long?” Surely there were naysayers. Travelers going through their land may have questioned why they still hung on to a promise made centuries ago. Even some of the Israelites themselves may have wondered, especially when times were bad.
Today, there are many “walking wounded” in our midst — people who have been injured physically or emotionally. People who also wonder “How long?” In trauma healing circles, we ask the group what they hear people say about God, especially in times of suffering. The responses vary: “God is testing you. God has abandoned you. God has bigger things to worry about than our individual problems. You must have done something wrong, for God to punish you like that. God doesn’t even exist.”
When suffering, we can start to buy into those thoughts. “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” For many, it is helpful to take a dive into Scripture and read about the character of God. The verses above are some of the many that give a different picture of who God really is.
In this testimony, a healing group participant shares her story:
“I have been going through a very difficult stage of my life, but with God’s help, I’m moving beyond the crisis. Anxiety is my worst enemy, and I am praying that God helps me reduce my anxiety and all the disturbing thoughts that take away my sense of peace. I’ve learned from this group that God desires good for me. He is showing me that he sustains me during these difficult moments and that he has never abandoned me, no matter how difficult things seem. I have seen his power, and I’m learning to value life and all I have, things that I may not have valued in the past. I even feel better thinking about the father of my child, who caused me a lot of harm.”
For another participant, it was the combination of Scripture and the relationships in a healing group:
“Lately I’ve had some really bad problems with my family. I sometimes spent all day and night crying. But through this group, that’s changing. One of the sessions that most impacted my life was the one that taught more about who God is; it helped me understand more about the things happening to me. God loved us from before the world was created, but at times, in the middle of a difficult process, we don’t understand that; we forget what the Bible says. God has taught me that no matter how heavy my current burden, he is walking with us and won’t leave us alone. In this group, I’ve learned how to socialize with others and to trust more in God. I was listened to; I felt heard and understood. This was one of the greatest things, since nobody is around during the hard times of our lives.”
Isn’t it amazing that by listening and caring, we can make God more real for people who are suffering? He is using us so that fewer people need to ask “How long?”
Prayer: Lord, help us to be assured of your true character of compassion and love. Make us bold to be representatives of that compassion and love to the people around us, seeing people through your eyes so that we can listen with patience and understanding. Amen.
Leanne Talen Geisterfer has worked with World Renew in Latin America ministry since 1982, currently as the regional ministry team leader. During the past several years she studied trauma healing and has facilitated healing groups and trained healing group facilitators in Central America. She lives with her husband, Caspar, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.