Living in the world today is very stressful. There are crazy and distressing events happening all over the globe and the future feels precarious. It seems that we are being confronted with our own fragility and the helpless feelings we may experience can be frightening. The world feels very unsafe.
Some historians tell us that in the last 3,400 years the world has been at peace (whatever that means) for only eight percent of the time. That is a pretty dismal figure, and may actually be more optimistic than the reality. This, of course, means humans have been at each other’s throats for 92 percent of the time. And this despite all of the peace talks, negotiations, and bumper stickers that read “War is not the Answer” or “Arms for hugging.” Unfortunately those are idealistic, though poetic, words for deaf ears.
Some people will tell you that humans are better off today than ever before, which sounds extraordinarily naïve. Of course, I’m a pessimist by nature. Perhaps, though it is true that our medical know-how or wealth (though that is absolutely not true for most of the world) has improved throughout world history. But, starving people are still without consistent sources of food, babies are still killed daily, the sex trade is thriving, and other major problems like racism are still tumbling out of control. Our nation alone has become one of the most self-centered cultures in the world. We thrive on letting people know what we’re doing every moment of the day through our Facebook status, we watch inane reality shows that expose the underbelly of selfishness and stupidity, we take selfies (we even have a stick to make them better), and we’ve becoming a nation of drug addicts. I’m afraid that we are not better off. My point is that if you keep up with the news and the culture then you know we don’t seem to be better off, and that can be frightening. Even Christians struggle to maintain hope in a violent and unpredictable world.
But take heart Church. Despair not!
When Jesus was nearing the end of his life he spoke comforting words to the disciples. Things were looking grim and he had just told Peter about his impending denial of Christ. But the next words we hear him speak are remarkable. He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms, If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” These important words speak directly to Christians. These words give us hope and they reassure us that the suffering we experience is not senseless and void of purpose. Let’s draw some conclusions.
- Jesus encourages us to not be troubled. That means that we can live in this fragile world with a hope. It will not always be dangerous and scary. No, quite the opposite. We can experience peace in the midst of the chaos.
- God is at the helm. Jesus was not plan “B.” He was plan “A.” By his very nature God is redemptive and wastes nothing. Our bandwidth of understanding is very small while His is unlimited. It is that kind of strength that reassures us. He is the source of all wisdom and goodness. Although He is also perfectly, Christians don’t have fear his wrath. Which brings me to point three.
- Jesus is preparing heaven for us, and promises to return for us. Remarkable! Do you know that he never failed to keep a single promise! His track record is perfect, so we can eagerly expect his return. In the meantime, he gave us his Spirit to comfort us, guide us, convict us, and to serve as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1:3-15). If you want a little preview of heaven then turn to Revelation 22. Now we see things only partially, but the time for perfect rest and peace is rapidly approaching.
Take heart Church! Let’s recall two things in closing. In Psalm 23 we read of the valley of the shadow of death. Note that it is a frightening place and also note that God never promises to remove us from it. He promises instead to be with us during that dark time! Secondly in the next verse God promises to prepare a table in the presence of our enemies. Sounds weird at first, but it means that we can have a safe, intimate dinner with him even when our enemies surround us! That is a God we can take comfort in. Let not your hearts be troubled.