The Unwelcome Promise

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“In the world you will have trouble…” John 16:33

How easily we’ve bought into the philosophy that the comfortable life is the normal Christian life “In the world you will have trouble” are not words regularly cited in a list of Blessed Promises of Faith. It seems such an unlikely, unlovely promise. We are astonished when illness cripples, when earthquakes shake our foundations, when teenagers stray.

I’m always fascinated by the account of Jesus inviting His disciples into a boat with a stated purpose: “Let us go over to the other side“—then falling asleep in the bow as winds roar and waves surge. Why did his friends doubt His purpose in the midst of the storm?

Jesus’ words to his astonished friends after the storm subsides speak not only to their predicament but to our own in the midst of life’s upheavals. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” These men were accomplished fisherman who knew that ferocious storms frequently exploded on the Sea of Galilee. Did they think that if Jesus was in the boat with them, no storm would dare descend?

We fall victim to that same way of thinking. If we’re obedient to Christ’s commands, if we live moral lives, if we’re involved in Christian ministry, surely we will escape the storms of poverty, terror, disease, divorce. Jesus’ own life is ample proof that not only will we experience storms, but that He provides all necessary means for us to survive, even flourish, in those calamitous events. His unlikely promise—“in this world you will have trouble”—is followed by words that break into our hearts like a glorious, breathtaking sunrise: “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Translators use a variety of words to describe Jesus’ words in the midst of Galilee’s storm: Take heart. Take courage. Cheer up. Have confidence. Keep up your courage. Each phrase presumes action on our parts. He calms storms. We trust him.

No storm is so fierce, so disastrous, so apparently meaningless that Jesus leaves us alone to cope with its realities. He is in the boat with us, and He provides the overcoming power to not just cope, but reach the other side.

Think about Jesus’ words, “Why are you so afraid?” Try to answer that question as honestly as possible; trace your fears back to their source. Then open your hands as a symbol of releasing those fears to the God who says, “Take heart! I have overcome (those fears).”

Father, I am so often afraid of people or events or my what-might-happen thoughts. Help me not only turn my fears over to you, but begin to anticipate those fears and ward them off by trusting you.

By Marilyn Ehle
Used by Permission

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