I sent my husband a picture of my dog this week. Actually…I probably sent a hundred pictures, but this time he responded with the words, He is the best boy. I immediately texted back: truer words have never been spoken.
But this morning I have been thinking about truth and life and struggle and have come to the conclusion that truer words have been spoken. In fact, maybe the most truthful words I have ever heard:
In this world you will have trouble…-Jesus, John 16:33
In this world you will have trouble. I will have trouble. People you love will have trouble. Good people, innocent people, hard-working people…will have trouble. And it is rarely convenient, seldom welcomed, and often deemed unfair by our own standards. It may not even be a consequence of something we have done. We are sometimes simply caught in the crossfire of time, circumstance, or the actions of others in their own struggles, pain, or decision-making.
The NLT translates it this way: Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
If we were in a room together I expect there would be a resounding “Amen!” or a raising of hands to testify that we all understand. We have all been on the receiving end of trouble, trial, and sorrow.
There once was a man well acquainted with trials, sorrow, and loss:
Have you considered my servant Job?God, Job 1:8
Remember the biblical account of Job? Have you ever felt like Job? Maybe not the blameless and upright, none-like-him part…but loss upon loss, trial upon trial, tragedy upon tragedy? And although not to Job’s extreme, I found myself comparing our situations this week. Totally blindsided. Family crisis, loss of property, conflict, emotional upheaval. And finally…an unexpected painful health struggle.
For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.Job 3:24
Maybe that’s a bit dramatic in my case. Maybe it was more like: I’m going to eat lots of snacks for comfort, complain and grumble and be frustrated, and then take a nap. But I did pour out prayers in the spirit of Romans 8:26, Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Too deep for words. Think about that phrase. Sometimes there just aren’t words. Words of explanation, words of excuse, words of comfort. At least, not human words. Sometimes we just need people sitting with us in the dust and ashes and pain and brokenness. And hope…we need hope. The Spirit himself intercedes…The hope that there is a God who sees, who knows, who cares, and who is able to intervene and sustain. To overcome.
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.Job 42:2
I know. Do you know? Do you believe that there is purpose in the pain? That your struggles and pain aren’t a surprise? They may even be planned for his purpose and for your growth and good? That He can bring good and glory out of every hard thing?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
How did Jesus know? Why did He warn us? Why are we assured that we will undoubtedly have trouble? We could talk about rebellion and sin nature and broken commandments, but let’s simplify:
THE WORLD IS BROKEN. People are broken, hearts are broken, laws are broken, vows are broken, trust is broken, relationships are broken. Do you feel it? Have you seen it? Life is precious and priceless, but also fragile and fleeting. What lies in the aftermath, the rubble, of any great breaking? Pain, dust, and broken pieces. Brokenness creates fragments and scatters bits and pieces. Flecks and shards of shattered, jagged glass that wound and cut and dig into deep painful places. And looking through the brokenness often obscures our view, like a distorted reflection through a shattered prism. But brokenness is also a picture. It shows us what went wrong and gives us an opportunity to repair or replace. To start over and pick up the pieces. To restore and to make whole. It creates hurt, but also hope and a chance for healing.
THE WORLD IS AT WAR. Sometimes it’s obvious. The never-ending news reports show battle images of soldiers and weapons and planes and death. Of rape and violence and murder, Headlines scream of anger, fear, division, and conflict. War at home, war abroad, war in our streets, in our homes, in our hearts. War without, war within.
There’s a battle for your time, a battle for your mind. For your kids, your spouse, your friends, your peace, your identity, your purpose, and your heart.
We fight against time and schedules, against growing older and growing colder. Against shadows, demons, fears, and imaginations. The people in our past, in our homes, in our work, on the phone, in traffic, on the Internet, and often our worst enemy…the person in the mirror. It’s a battle on all fronts: physical, emotional, and spiritual. No wonder we are tired and battle-weary.
So yes, in this world we will have trouble, but hear the truest, best, most hope-filled words of all:
But take heart; I have overcome the world.Jesus, John 16:33
Take heart. Take action. Take faith and believe and reach out and take it. Just believe. Be still and know.
Job was a real man. A simple, flawed human. But notice that God said, my servant Job. Job knew God and served him faithfully. It was his service and love that made him a target. A word to us: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Job was prosperous, highly esteemed, and blessed. But it was through his struggle and loss that Job learned more about God than through all his prosperity. It made him dig deeper and reach higher. It made him question and recognize his own position and purpose. He sought and searched his maker and learned more about his position and power. He spoke to God and He answered. He was able to see with new, humbled eyes.
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.Job 42:5
May we be faithful in the midst of our trials and sorrows. May we sit with others in their grief and allow them access to our pain and vulnerability. May we know that God sees and knows and cares and overcomes. May we boldly, but reverently approach the throne of grace and mercy. May our words and lives echo the words of Job:
But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.Job 23:10