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It’s been a while since I’ve shared a prayer from my very talented friend and colleague, Jane Zwart. It seemed particularly appropriate, given the change this time of the year when we change our clocks and begin to have a different relationship with the light. May this bless you today.

Dear Jesus,

The scriptures tell us that, when you return, you “will bring to light things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” Jesus, we scarcely know what to do with a promise so vast. In part, we long for its fulfillment–for your second coming.

So many things, after all, are “now hidden in darkness.” If we’re honest, we could write lists, some of us, of the explanations we feel God owes us. Because we do suffer in the dark. We suffer without understanding why cancer colonizes our organs, why addiction grasps the scruff of our necks, why debt nips at our heels, why anxiety tightens a vice around our chests. 

Jesus, we pray for those among us who suffer without knowing why.

And we pray for those who suffer things that we who have always had asylum and bread cannot fathom. For we are in the dark, too, about others’ desperation, even as we don’t know why we’ve been spared the bombs that flatten cities from above and the earthquakes that topple them from below, why we’ve been spared the famines that shrink villages, why we’ve been spared the violence that surprises– and does not surprise–American towns again and again. 

Jesus, we pray for those whose suffering we cannot comprehend.

We pray for relief from suffering. We pray to be released from doubt. We pray for you to come again, when you “bring to light things now hidden in darkness.” 

But we also know, O Christ, that if you come and “disclose the purposes of the heart,” it is not just the tyrants you will find hateful and selfish and haughty. It is us. So part of us fears this promise of your second coming, as well.

At least until we reckon, again, with your first coming. For even as you will come again, bringing light to our bewilderments and secrets, you have also already come: the Light of the World. And even as you will come again and reveal and correct the purposes of human hearts, you have already come, disclosing on the cross the purpose of your heart: to so love the world. 

Which is why we ask you to let us carry a little of that light in this world, to answer the unfairness of suffering with the scandal of the gospel, to answer inexplicable hurt with prodigal mercy. 

And we are bold to ask even more: for your kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. For the second coming, when you will be all in all, when we will dwell, done with illusions, in the radiance of your love. Amen.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.


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