By Jasmine Timm
I woke up to my 4:45 a.m. alarm Monday to start my typical early morning commute to Portland that I do once a week. Given the early hour these mornings are usually brutal, but this particular morning was especially heavy. The night before I had a difficult conversation with an old friend that ended with no clear resolution in sight. With heavy eyes and a heavy heart, I grabbed my backpack, coffee, and keys and headed out the door to begin my commute.
As I drove through the darkness on I-5, I found myself asking, “God, where are You? What are You doing? Why is this pain so prolonged?” It didn’t feel right that I had prayed for a whole year for God to reconcile my friend and I, and it didn’t feel right that after a long-awaited conversation I was even more confused and felt even more hurt. It was an all too familiar season of darkness, and although not as severe as ones I’ve experienced before, I was left once again wondering where I went wrong and why this pain was mine to carry.
The silence lingered in my car as I waited for God to answer, to remind me of some truth I’d forgotten or meet me with the comfort of His presence. As I waited, I looked out the window to my right as I often do. In the darkness, I could make out the faint outline of the hills against the horizon — hills that in the daylight hours span across the entire valley, and that in the darkness hide the light behind them. Though it was dark, I could tell the sun was beginning to make its journey upward, and I knew I would soon be able to see the hills that were now shrouded in darkness. I thought, “That is how I feel right now — dark, like hope is on the other side of the hills but I can’t quite see it yet.” But if I knew anything about God in that moment, I knew He hadn’t abandoned me in darkness. Although it felt dark, the light would come up soon enough. And sure enough, the longer I drove north on I-5, the lighter it became.
In seasons of suffering — whether they be mild or severe — I often feel as if God’s presence is far off. As a result, it is difficult to be faithful in the suffering. In 1 Peter 3:13-22, Peter begins a longer discourse on suffering by encouraging us to suffer faithfully in the midst of unfair treatment from others. And what is the motivation he gives us? He tells us in verse 18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” We can suffer faithfully because Christ suffered faithfully for us. Throughout his letter, Peter has in the back of his mind this “Suffering Servant” found in the book of Isaiah, and he once again points us to the freedom that comes from knowing this Servant who suffered for us and who equips us to follow in His steps. My suffering felt unfair Monday morning, but Christ set an example of what it looks like to suffer faithfully even though it may be unfair. Our suffering may feel unfair, or confusing, or hopeless, but our Suffering Servant calls us to the same hope, and our hope is this: He has brought us back to God. Jesus suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us back to God. He has restored us to God’s favor and God’s presence, and no form of suffering can strip this immeasurable gift from us.
As I drove in the darkness of I-5, I was reminded that the light does come back, and even when it felt absent, it was there all along. When we suffer, especially at the hand of injustice, we tend to ask, “God, where are You? Are You even here? What are You doing?” And if we have eyes to look, we will see Him answering us in His Word, with His presence, in His church, and with the testimony of His past faithfulness to us. He answers back, “I have suffered for my people in order to bring them to myself, and when I bring them to myself, I never leave.” In the words of an old hymn:
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
The Christ who suffered for us is not hiding from us, but is with us. He has brought us to God, and has promised that we will stay there in His presence. Although it may seem like He hides for a little while, the fullness of His presence is just on the horizon. May we take Him at His word and follow in His steps, suffering faithfully and suffering with hope as we wait for Him to return to us in glory.