In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
- John 16:33b (ESV)
In seasons of flourishing and unbridled joy, we tend toward forgetting God as if we didn’t need His sustaining grace and power every second that we take breath on His green earth. But in seasons of pain and grief, the Christian is faced with the crushing reality that if our God is sovereign… Then He is sovereign over all the events and circumstances that have broken our hearts. The God who we claim to have faith in has allowed and even ordained our suffering. And that is where the wrestling match within our soul begins…
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? And on and on it goes. We cannot fathom why God would create a world with such evil and wickedness. Why we should be assaulted by temptation after temptation. Why our flesh should be so weak. Why life should be so fleeting and fragile. Why infants are slaughtered by the millions before seeing the light of day. Why our loved ones are ripped from our lives in such horrific ways. Why we must helplessly watch so much suffering around us. What is the point of it all? How can all of that pain possibly bring glory to the Creator of all things?
When we find ourselves swept away by these torrents of doubts and despair, our only hope is to lay hold to firm foundations. To cling to the rock of Ages that the waves have thrown us against. To drop the anchor and ride out the storm. And what is that foundation, that rock, and that anchor that steadies us in the midst of such tumult? It is the most precious gift of all – the Word of the living God and the promises contained within.
And in that Word, Jesus said plainly to His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” If you have believed some “gospel” that told you that God would take away all your worries and your pain in this life and things will be all rainbows and butterflies for men of faith, then you have believed a “gospel” that the Bible knows nothing about. You have believed in a false gospel and a false god. For the God of the heavens and the earth declared that IN THIS LIFE YOU WILL HAVE TRIBULATION! You will hurt! You will be cast down! You will be persecuted! You will be tortured! You will suffer in seemingly unbearable ways! That is what the Son of God said.
That is a promise you can hang your hat on. It is solid floor that you can drop to your knees on. And it is an awful rock to be thrown against, but it is a firm one nonetheless. It is real, it is true, and it is 100% verifiable in our lives. In this world, we have had, are having, and will have tribulation.
But, that isn’t the whole of the statement, is it? That isn’t the full story. That is only the nighttime hours of the full day. It is only the darkness before the sun rises.
For our Lord continued, “… But take heart. I have overcome the world!” I can’t imagine that sentence was uttered without some form of exclamation. YOU WILL HURT. YOU WILL SUFFER. This life will be full of woes and sorrows. BUT take heart, take courage, and be of good cheer! For, I the Christ and Son of the living God have overcome the world. To prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt, this same Son of Man would defeat death itself by suffering a crucifixion and burial before rising from his deathbed, casting aside his linen burial clothes, and folding the shroud that had covered his lifeless face. The last great enemy of all of mankind – death – has been beaten by Jesus alone. And so He says with all power and authority granted to Him by the Father, “I have overcome the world.”
So, as you wrestle with doubts and fears… As you question God and wallow in self-pity as we all do… As you wonder how it can possibly all be made right in the end… Hold tightly to the anchor that holds against the fiercest winds this world has to offer – the Word of God. And that Word tells us that though it is nighttime now, morning is coming. Though we have tribulations now, our redeemer lives and He has overcome the world and all those trials and sufferings. Though we mourn, we will be comforted. Though we cry, our tears will be wiped away by the hand of God. Though we are cast down, we will never be destroyed.
Our anchor holds, it firmly holds, because Jesus of Nazareth has overcome the world.