We have been touching on suffering a little this week; and many in our world are suffering during this time of illness and quarantine. Even if we, ourselves, are not in particularly bad shape, we still feel terrible for those who are. It is tempting to get down, give up, or even sink into total despair.
Another temptation we face is to assume that when we follow Jesus, life will become easy! “This isn’t supposed to happen to God’s people!” On the contrary … let’s read the words of Jesus from John 16.
Scripture: John 16:23-33 (NLT)
At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy. "I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.” Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 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.” [emphasis mine]
It really is quite silly when we assume that following Jesus means our lives will be easy and wonderful all the time, isn’t it? That’s what the so-called “prosperity gospel” would have us believe … “God wants to give you health and wealth.” And while we know that God is always good, we also know the world is not. This means, for disciples living in the world, there will be trouble.
Jesus said, “You will have trouble.”
Sometimes this trouble comes in the form of persecution or oppression because of our faith. More likely, for Christ’s disciples living in the United States in the current year, we do not feel oppressed ourselves. Yet, we have an opportunity to suffer for the sake of others. Our neighbors are suffering—with illness, poverty, hunger, and depression. True disciples are those who do not ignore the pain of others, but who come face to face with it for the sake of blessing them in Jesus’ name.
Who do you know who is suffering today?
How might you share in their suffering for Jesus’ sake?
Lord Jesus, the One Savior from God who gave your life as a ransom for the many, we thank you for your words of comfort and encouragement. Remind us that you have told us these things so that in you we may have peace, knowing that while the world is troubled, you have overcome the world by your death and resurrection. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.