I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (NLT)
These are the words of Jesus, and they can be trusted. We are all familiar with the trials and sorrows part, right?! We get that, for sure. The peace and taking heart parts, however, are so often distant or absent factors in our pain problems. They don’t help us solve the suffering, and we don’t embrace them as the answer.
Many Christians have been guilty of believing or judging that suffering and pain are either a reflection of salvation status or evidence of sin in theirs or someone else’s life. In John 9, the disciples ask why a man was born blind. “Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” Jesus is quick to answer, “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:3 NLT) Jesus is clear … we will have injury and sadness in this world. They are the natural effects of the curse of sin on all of the created world. They are as natural as weeds in your landscape. Some are small and surface amounting to nothing more than an eye sore, and some have a tap-root so strong and deep it chokes the life from a plant or flower.
So what are we to do in the face of guaranteed problems and pain? I believe God wants us to engage them, and He wants you to have peace in the midst of them. “Peace?! You’ve got to be kidding me!” would be a totally expected response to that suggestion. But here’s the thing … Jesus said it. He said it in the verse above, and He says it in encouraging the disciples just before leaving this world to return to the Father. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) To be perfectly clear, Jesus is talking about a peace that isn’t defined by Webster or the world. He is talking about a confidence, a calm, an assurance, which comes from the promise which follows “take heart” in our opening verse. God is in control. He has already broken the power of sin and death in taking them to the cross and then rising again three days later. There is no power or circumstance which escapes his notice or is outside His will.
Do those truths make it hurt less? No. But in God’s economy, pain is not without purpose. We don’t pretend to fully understand, but we can trust what He says. We will experience suffering and deep sadness, but His peace is ours for the asking as we travel through it. And waiting at the end is the confident assurance (hope) of healing because of what He has already done for us.