Sin has wreaked havoc on our world, our society, our churches, and our families. We don't like to talk about it. We try to avoid thinking about it. But the reality is, many people are dealing with hurt and pain that has been brought on by sin and living within a fallen, broken world. If you are someone or if you know someone who is currently in a painful place of suffering, and you or your loved one do know the Lord Jesus, I want to encourage you with this blog post.
As one of God's people, we might be tempted to think, "We don't deserve to go through this suffering? Why God? This isn't right!" God has put eternity in our hearts. God has given us the capacity to experience joy and by His grace we have all experienced some measure of the peace or "Shalom" that is the ideal held up in the Scriptures for God's people. This is all just evidence that we were made for fellowship with God which we learn in Psalm 16, that in His presence "There is fullness of joy" and at His right hand "are pleasures forevermore". So when our life experience is something far different from these pleasures and joy spoken of in Psalm 16, we often wonder to ourselves, "How can this be?"
I know I write as someone who has been spared much suffering. Some believers I know have experienced far more and much worse pain and suffering in their lives than I have known. There are some whom I love who are dealing with heavy burdens even now who are on my mind. Life can be so hard. The more you open up your heart to love others, the more opportunity there is for being hurt and heartbroken. I take comfort in knowing that the Lord Jesus, knows what it is to suffer unjustly, and also warned and prepared us for suffering as well. He did say, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
When we hear that word of reassurance from the Lord Jesus, we have to keep in mind He was not just an extraordinary character in the great story of redemption. He is the author of the story. He is in control of it all. When we remember and believe that, His word to us in John 16:33 becomes so much more reassuring. "In this world you will have tribulation" - the world that He created and put us in, the tribulations that you endure are all under His sovereign control and are designed by Him for His glory and for our good. They all have a purpose. "But take heart, I have overcome the world." Take courage, be assured, be comforted by this, He has overcome the world. Do you remember how He did that? That's right, by experiencing the worst suffering this world could have ever done to Him. Betrayal, rejection, torture, shaming, and being nailed to a wooden cross and left to die by asphyxiation. But then He rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God in sovereign supremacy over all things.
Think of the disciples on the day after Christ's death and burial. What were they thinking? What was the state of their souls on that long, dark day? What were the questions bouncing around their minds? Things definitely didn't look good. For many of us who are in the midst of suffering and darkness, we might feel like we are in a similar spot. We might feel hopeless, depressed, on the edge of despair. We might feel like Jonah in the belly of the big fish; or the people of Israel who were hauled off into exile in Babylon; or like the Apostle John who was exiled on the island of Patmos, knowing he was the last living Apostle, all the rest having been killed for preaching the Gospel. In our low times when we feel like things just can't get any worse, its important for us to remember what happened next in the story for those believers in those low points, and how God has promised us the story will end.
Jonah was thrown back onto land, given a second chance to obey and serve the Lord. God's people were brought back into the Promised Land as privileged people, having all their needs provided for by the Persian king. The disciples had their resurrected Lord pay them a visit the next day, and John was given a vision of the resurrected Christ on the throne reigning over the world which was set up against him and all Christ's people. He was shown things like what he wrote down in Revelation 7,
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' . . .These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger nor more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:9-10, 14-17)
The proclamation of the Christian in times of trouble as well as times of blessing is "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." May we encourage each other when we are in those dark times. The story isn't over yet. We don't know what the morning may bring, but we do know how it will end. One day, everything will be made right. All will be well.