By Dr Agnes Tan
Joseph Scriven’s (1819–1886) life was filled with tragedies. He lost his two fiancés, one from accidental drowning the day before their wedding and the other from an illness. He also left a career that he had strived for because of his poor health. But in spite of all these troubles, Scriven managed to hang on and he even encouraged those around him. According to the writer Guthrie Clark (1955), Scriven wrote the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in his final days to comfort his mother. In this hymn, Scriven talks about his relationship with Jesus—his Friend, his Saviour, his Comforter and his Prince of Peace.
To know Emmanuel—God with us—is an important and powerful truth that all God’s children should experience. In the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon and many more, we saw what a person or church could become if God is with them. And so, whilst we draw near to God, it is actually God who first draws near to us, and he has been doing so since the beginning of time.
One of the early scenes in Genesis depicts the Creator walking in the Garden, seeking fellowship and communion with his people (Gen. 3:8). The command to build the Tabernacle was God’s initiative so that He might live with His people. After 400 years of silence, God continued to reach out: “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). At the cross, Jesus promised the dying thief that he would be with Jesus in paradise (Luke 23:43). When the great commission was given, Jesus promised to be with his disciples always, to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20). After Pentecost and the beginning of the church, God now dwells with his people through the Holy Spirit in our hearts (John 14:16). And even after everything is gone and a new heaven and a new earth has come, God will continue to dwell among his people (Rev. 21:1-3).
So today, be encouraged in your trials, fears and circumstances, knowing that God is with you and will always be with you, and look forward to that day when he will be with you fully and will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev. 21:4).