The Lord will again comfort Zion — Zechariah 1:17
He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope. — 2 Corinthians 1:10
2020 has been a hard year defined by illness, loss, insecurity, violence, and injustice, in both ongoing and unforeseen ways. Whether you’re experiencing it personally or hearing it from someone else, there is a weariness and a fear that have infused our consciousness. Many of us are feeling discouraged and disappointed, disoriented and uncertain. Many wonder where God is in the midst of it. We wonder how to make sense of suffering that seems senseless.
Today’s passages, together, remind us of God’s character and action in the midst of human suffering. They show us that when people suffer, God does respond. In the Zechariah passage, we’re reminded of God’s comfort, of God’s nearness to us when we are in pain. We’re reminded that, like a loving parent, God hurts with us and holds us close. In the 2 Corinthians passage, we’re reminded of God’s deliverance, of God’s power to intervene and save us from suffering. We’re reminded of the ultimate and eternal rescue, from sin and death, on which we can rely. As we experience or witness suffering, sometimes we see deliverance and are released from suffering; at other times, suffering is endured, and God sits with his children, offering comfort and healing. God’s responses may feel mysterious, but we can be confident in the certainty of his active and attentive presence.
Both of today’s passages also remind us that God doesn’t comfort and rescue us just once or twice; the words “again” (from Zechariah) and “continue” (from 2 Corinthians) emphasize that these are God’s habitual responses. God is consistently, reliably present.
God’s active presence in our lives is transformative. Scott J. Haefmann writes this about Paul’s understanding of his own suffering: “suffering is a page in the textbook used in God’s school of faith. It is not suffering itself that teaches us faith, but God who uses it as a platform to display his resurrection power in our lives, either through deliverance from suffering or by comfort within it.”
Even as suffering will draw us to places of confusion and uncertainty, may we seek and see God’s comforting and freeing presence in it.