“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
– John 16:33
Life is hard. We often have to endure physical, mental and emotional pain, and sometimes all at once. We want life to be easy, or at least to work. But life is not easy, and life is often messy. Just when you think you’ve got life figured out and neatly arranged for yourself, some unforeseen problem jumps out from around a corner and makes a mess of all your plans. And it’s usually not cancer or bankruptcy or your teenage son announcing that he’s pretty sure he’s a woman. Once in a while those big things come around and really nail us, but it’s usually something more subtle. And many times it doesn’t come from outside, but from within, which is why we don’t see it coming until it’s too late.
In this world, Jesus says, we have trouble. And I find that the primary source of my trouble in this world is something I can’t escape as long as I’m in this world. It’s me. No matter where I go, and no matter what circumstances I arrange for myself, there I am with myself, just waiting to mess up my life again. Other people help, but I am the primary source. Perhaps, if you look closely, you’ll find that your experience is similar. Maybe you can relate, as I can, with Paul’s complaint: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24)
And in addition to making life hard for myself, I often make life hard for others. I don’t want to, but somehow I manage to anyway. And that makes life all the harder for me. Especially when I don’t want to admit that it was my fault, or when I’m insistent on justifying it because I’m sure the person I’ve hurt has done even more to make life difficult for me. Sound familiar?
There may come a time in your life when you are crushed under this reality. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want life to be hard. You’re willing for certain aspects of life to be hard, provided they either end soon or make life easier in the long run. But what does your heart do when you consider the possibility that you may not get a long, early retirement in a peaceful coastal village with a tropical climate? And what if you realize that even if you do, you’re going to have to take yourself with you?
I don’t say all this just to turn us into a bunch of pessimistic navel-gazers. I say it to help us come to terms with what Jesus has promised us. Because sometimes coming to terms with the promise that life will be hard is the first step toward taking hold of the promise that Jesus connects with it. And we must never stop at the first promise. We must not simply become cold, joyless stoics, determined simply to endure life even if it kills us. Though we can’t make sense out of it all yet, we must keep looking to that greater reality that governs our present problems – Jesus has overcome the world, and he’s done it for us. So we can (and must) take courage.
These things he has spoken to us, so that in Him we may have peace.