The Angel of His Presence

"In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them..." Isaiah 63:9

On a remote African mission station, in the province of Bandundu, my mother was anguishing in prayer at my bedside. I was in the throes of a serious bout of malaria. My father was away from us, called off the station on an evangelism trip. Those were the days before we had the short wave radio that allowed my mother to call Vanga, the closest medical mission station to us. I had been feeling ill for several days and the third day culminated in my body being wracked with a raging fever, which forced me to go to my bed. The fever had drained me of all my energy as I would awake out of a restless sleep, unable to eat or drink anything. My mother was a city girl who felt completely unprepared to be a missionary. Her terror over her inability to get immediate medical care for me increased with each hour as my fever rose and its effects on my body became more evident. My mother was convinced that to be a "real" missionary she would have to relinquish one or more of her children to an untimely death. From the depths of her heart, she begged God not to take me. And yet, my fever had not broken. "God, don't you see that I have obeyed You? Please, please don't take her; I can't bear life without her!" her mind raced. Having just escaped the clutches of death's jaws with my baby brother, she felt apprehensive to face another critical illness sweep over yet another child. After hours with no change, she stood by my bed alone and took my arm as she asked God if this was when she would realize her worst fears.

As she knelt beside me, with the tears quietly rolling down her cheeks, I suddenly opened my eyes. I smiled at her and whispered something that made her have to come close to my bed to hear me. "What did you say, Shawnee?" she asked. "Mama, I just saw an angel. He was right here with me, right here, by my bed. I know it was an angel, Mama, I know it," I said in hushed tones. "I believe you, honey," Mom said joyfully as she embraced me and felt my forehead. My feverish brow was now cool to her touch.

How amazing that my God is distressed when I am distressed. Because He is God, He has the ability to speak worlds into existence with His omnipotent voice. He is both majestic and terrifying, powerful and awesome. And yet He is the same One who gives me permission to call Him "Abba," "Daddy." He could fully understand my distress without having to go through the emotion of it. After all, He is God. But He doesn't hold Himself remote from my situation. He sits with me and feels the pain in His daddy heart as He watches me deal with the curse of having a fragile heart made of dust. And He remembers that He must rescue me.

I seldom see it from His perspective. It is terrifying to my flesh to surrender to Him in the valley of the shadow. My mother's terror came from the fact that the nearest hospital was nine hours away from our mission station. And God provided the perfect situation to show my mother that He was the great Physician. To this day, we both know Who healed me. Why do I run from those situations that force me to throw myself on my Jesus? I rarely see those circumstances as the gifts that they are--crystal clear moments that bolster my faith that He is Who He says He is. In my heart, I want to see Him do the miraculous. But I seldom have that in the forefront of my thoughts when I am passing through deep waters. But how else can He get my attention? In what other way can He reveal Himself to me than to stop my world and make me realize my desperate need for Him?

The prophet Isaiah has given us precious insight into the heart of God. But I have to think that God's distress is never like mine. He is completely sovereign, faithful in all His ways, and nothing threatens those qualities-ever. No, perhaps His distress is over these sin-sick eyes of mine that cannot see His hand or readily trust His heart. And when I wrestle with a terror and finally choose to acknowledge the everlasting arms that have been beneath me continually, the angel of His presence saves me.