Immanuel in our suffering

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” - which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)

This past Sunday, Annmarie Boulay, co-founder and executive director of the Underground New England, spoke at NewLife. The Underground, according to their website, “is a grass-roots, faith-based initiative dedicated to ending sex trafficking and sexual exploitation throughout Connecticut and New England.” The work that Annmarie and her team does is vital, Christ-like, and heartbreaking. It is horrible to think of what so many children and young adults go through at the hands of people who think nothing of exploiting their bodies and souls for profit.

There are have been many times like this past Sunday when it is easy for us to become overwhelmed by the suffering that so many experience in this world. Life rarely goes according to plan, and no one escapes tragedy – some worse than others. And sometimes, like in the case of those who have been the victim of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, it can be hard to understand where God is in the midst of such horror.

In Matthew 1, an angel visits Joseph to encourage him not to divorce his fiancée, Mary, who has unexpectedly become pregnant. The angel tells him that she will give birth to a son who they will name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. And this, according to Matthew, will be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the virgin will give birth to a son who will be called Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:21-23).

The wonder of the incarnation is that God did not stay far off in the sinless glory of heaven, but that Jesus, Immanuel, God the Son, came down to go through the hell and heartache of this world in order to save us. He endured homelessness, poverty, abuse, betrayal, torture, and an unjust death in order to rescue us and restore us to a right relationship with God. God could have devised a way to forgive us our sins from the comfort of heaven, but instead chose to suffer alongside us, overcoming sin and death and giving us a path to eternal life.

I do not know why some people suffer the way they do in this life. I have no answers for why some are born into good families while others have the deck stacked against them from the start, or why some are exploited and victimized while others are not. But I do know that Jesus has walked the hard road of abuse and injustice. I know that those who exploit and victimize others will one day stand before the Judge of all the earth. And I know that one day we will be with Him forever, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain . So turn today to the one(Revelation 21:4) who understands and find healing and hope in Him today.

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