A year ago this week, our nation was glued to the television. We watched images of homes floating down the streets of New Orleans; of houses completely submerged in the flood. And too many hours of CNN personnel describing absolute devastation.
A year ago this week, we were deeply moved by the suffering all over the Gulf Coast. We gave money to help, we prayed for them, and we were enthralled by any image we could capture of “the real image” of what was happening after Katrina left her mark and moved along.
Where are we this week? As another storm threatens Florida, it seems we barely recognize it because it is smaller. It seems we have become numb to a category 1 hurricane because the damage is minimal compared to Katrina’s wake. The clean-up has barely begun in the Gulf Coast regions, but for most of us, our lives have returned to “normal.” Even the media seems to have forgotten those who are still without homes and those who will spend the next five years with their houses covered in blue tarps.
Simon Barrow, a theologian in the United Kingdom has said, “God wants to be won by humanity, placing Himself, so to speak, into human hands. God wants to come to the world, but to come to it through men and women.” It is this God who recognizes the suffering of all of humanity, who longs to be present to those in need. But this God has appointed us the workers for the task at hand. For God to be with us, we must be with one another.
When we allow God to truly BE Immanuel – God with us – we recognize that the suffering around us is powerful. Because we know that our God embraces the suffering we encounter, and because we know that God desires that we would suffer no longer, we must learn to live in such a way as to end the suffering of those around us. But are we doing anything at all one year later? It was easy in those first few days to hand them our money and offer a prayer.
Imagine what the world could look like if we worked to end suffering. Imagine what it would mean to be a people dedicated to building peace. If only we could find a way to engage the God who suffered with and for us, perhaps we could learn Godly compassion. Perhaps we could find a way to get beyond our own pain. And as we allowed the all-compassionate God to heal our wounds, perhaps those very wounds would give us the courage to heal the wounds of one another.
One year later, will we be the men and women who facilitate the presence of God to a suffering world? Or will we again turn a blind eye to the physical – and more importantly – spiritual suffering around us. You don’t have to run to New Orleans to find it. The suffering is around us everywhere. The world is full of people wounded and in desperate need of the Immanuel God. Will we introduce them?