Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns (Luke 22:53).
This past Sunday morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. Not by choice.
For whatever reason, I woke up and discovered yet again that darkness is no friend to my thoughts. I always set an alarm that gets me up early on Sunday mornings, but it wasn’t time for that alarm to summon me to the day. I didn’t want to be up that early. I wanted just a little more sleep.
Sleep never came. My thoughts kept pinballing from this to that, the what if and the how.
Looking back, I think I should have just gotten up at 4:00 a.m. and faced the day – get out of bed, make the coffee, get to my desk. I find that whatever it is that nags at me in the darkness, whatever it is that looms large and foreboding, never seems quite as formidable once the day begins (even if the day begins before the sun is up).
Recently, however, I’ve had some conversations that have reminded me that there are those for whom the darkness never seems to lift, even when the sun sits high and bright above them.
If that happens to be you today, I want to take a stab at offering you a word of hope. Jesus knows well the weight of dark moments. In his darkest moments he was abandoned by his friends. He felt the pain of God-forsakenness.
But the one abandoned never abandons us.
When Darkness Reigns
The story of Jesus’ passion is characterized by an encroaching darkness that culminates in his crucifixion on the day we call ‘Good Friday.’
We see Jesus in anguished prayer in Gethsemane. He knew the darkness that comes when something dreaded must be embraced. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34).
In those very moments Jesus also knew the darkness that comes when evil prevails. The plans and purposes of the adversary appear unstoppable. At his arrest Jesus told his opponents, “this is your hour – when darkness reigns.”
With his dying breaths, Jesus felt the darkness of God’s absence. “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
And at his crucifixion “darkness came over the whole land” (Luke 23:44).
The Light of Life
As has been observed previously in this series of reflections and Sunday messages, the word ‘passion’ is an anglicized form of the Latin passio, which means ‘suffering or enduring.’ But the story of Jesus’ passion doesn’t end in suffering. We know that all of this is headed to a resurrection. Throughout Luke’s gospel, when Jesus spoke of his impending sufferings, he also mentioned the rising again (Luke 9:22).
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the suffering servant: In words that anticipate the passion of Jesus we see this servant as a man of sorrows, despised and rejected, one from whom we hide our faces. In short, we see him abandoned.
But the prophet continues: “And after the suffering of his soul he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).
Your darkest hour is not your defining hour.
You too will see the light of life.
The one who was abandoned will not abandon you. The one who suffered God’s absence promises to you his abiding presence. He entered the darkness of death and defeated it, rising to life again. But for that part of the story, we wait just a while longer.
What would you name as your darkest hour? How did you see the faithfulness of God?
Merciful God, we thank you for your faithfulness. We thank you for your promise to never leave us or forsake us. We are humbled that Jesus knew the pain of abandonment, yet dwells with us daily by the Holy Spirit. Comfort us in our darkest hours, we pray. Sustain us until we see again the light of life, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.