I almost titled this post “On Suffering” but then I thought, do I even know what it means to suffer? There have been hard, hard times in my life, but when I look at people I know, or know of, or people I’ve never even heard of across the world who really, truly know how suffering looks and feels, I realize that I have no idea what suffering really means. Now, trouble is something else. I know a few things about that.
In my recent post On Waiting and Working, I quoted John 16:33, where Jesus promises His disciples: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart: I have overcome the world.” Since I posted that I can’t stop thinking about that verse. It’s like it’s on repeat in my head and I just keep thinking about the implications of it.
Trouble. I quoted the verse the way I learned it, in the old NIV. Other versions say “tribulations,” “trials and sorrows,” etc. But you get the idea. Trouble. That one word can encompass everything from the little inconveniences and disappointments to the great, tragic, horrible things that I don’t even want to talk about because I can’t imagine dealing with them. We all have trouble, some more than others, because we live, ever so briefly, in this world. It is a natural hazard of living and breathing every day. Now, one thing I keep asking myself is, why is that when we come to Jesus, who told us very clearly that in this world we will have trouble, we expect Him to take it all away? And then we’re disappointed when He doesn’t. Or even worse, we stumble into even more trouble and then blame it on Him. We wonder if He’s abandoned us, or if He’s punishing us, or if He hates us, or if He’s somehow refining us by putting us through hell on earth before bringing us home to heaven. I can’t condemn that kind of thinking because I’ve been there. But I think that maybe when we’re focusing on the trouble or how we are feeling in the midst of it or how we wish God would just intervene and take it away, maybe we’re focusing on the wrong thing.
I feel like I’ve been harping on this kind of thing lately but I suppose it’s because I’m so convicted about it. I have a real problem with thinking that my life is all about me. Or that it’s my life at all. Because well, it isn’t. It belongs to Christ. The trouble I have isn’t just mine, it’s His. All that pain and frustration and questioning and doubting is just part of the sin and pain and death that He bore on the cross. Everything that makes us feel overwhelmed and horrified and crushed, He felt it all when He cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” And what did He do with all that? He overcame it. He died, He was buried, He rose again, and He overcame this world and all the trouble that goes along with it.
I am so small-minded and present-focused. All I know is what I’ve learned and experienced in my 34 years in this world, and my poor little brain can’t even begin to imagine the vastness of eternity, but that is what Jesus promises is in store for those who believe in Him. Forever with Him, in His presence, at His feet, basking in the light of His glory, because He is worthy. It’s no wonder the Apostle Paul asked, what are the tiny troubles of our little lives in comparison to that (2 Cor. 4:15-18)? The good gifts that God showers on us every day, the troubles that darken our days and make us long for heaven, they are all for one purpose: So that we can shine God’s light into the lives of as many people that we possibly can, extend His grace to a world that needs it so desperately, and one day fall at His feet knowing that we brought as many souls with us as we could.
I’m not trying to minimize or ignore the pain that trouble causes us. It can break our hearts, rob us of loved ones, destroy our health, and strip us of everything that we value. That’s big stuff. Heart-rending, awful stuff. It can drive us from God or bring us to our knees. But whether our troubles make us feel closer to God or wonder why He feels so far away, reality is, He’s there. And He does have a greater purpose in it, to grow His Kingdom for His glory.
Our troubles are not about us. They are not what God is doing to us, what He is allowing in our lives for some reason that we hope He understands because we can’t, they don’t happen because God forgot about us or hates us. When we walk with Christ, when He is in us and we are in Him in this unfathomable life that He bought with His blood, they are His troubles, too. When I can’t figure out anything in life and I don’t know how I’m going to get through it, I know one thing: He’s got this. He has overcome the world. I don’t have to.
God, give me an eternal perspective, even if my mind can’t grasp it all. Let me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, knowing that one day, everything else will fade away and I will see Him, not through eyes of faith, but through my very own eyes, transformed by His glory forever.