Tragedy is a prevalent backdrop this side of heaven. Our hearts and minds are scorched with sorrow and drained of comprehension as we scroll through our daily news feeds.
For modern generations of children, lock-down drills are as routine as fire and tornado drills.
John 16:33 assures us that “in this world we will have trouble.”
The word “trouble” in this verse is translated from the Greek word thlipsis (a cognate form of the verb thlibō) meaning to “press, squeeze, crush.” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary.) When we are leveled by tragedy, it’s important to remember that God is not surprised.
Formed in God’s image, the anguish our souls endure at the sight and sound of human pain is ingrained in us.
His promise is to love, and never leave us. Even in a world that is crumbling before us, Christians know that we will make it through into the presence of His face.
1. Deflated Shock
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33a).
The guts of John 16:33 are surrounded by two leveling statements, the first promising us peace in a shattered world.
God is not shocked by the earth’s engulfing downfall; in fact, He not only told us about it, but also how to prepare our souls to endure it. “Peace” is what He left us with.
“In me.” Everything to which humanity is doomed as a result of sin’s prevalence is wiped away when we align our hearts with His purpose.
“In me,” requires an acceptance of Christ. The relationship we form with God through prayer and study of His Word allows His promised peace to permeate our souls. It is a divine gift that we are unable to understand or accomplish without His weaving through our very souls.
2. Full Hearts
“But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33c).
“FULL HEARTS ….CAN’T LOSE!” yelled the football team off of the movie set. There is an element of truth in that statement that we can back up with the last punch of John 16:33.
This world is going to beat us up, but the hope of Christ assures us that even when the scoreboard dubs us losers, Jesus’ tag on our lives cannot be erased or minimized.
Like a hashtag that sticks around long after it’s relevant, Jesus’ motto of love continues to permeate every heart.
It may appear that there is a war going on outside—even inside—our doors. It’s the foot-stomping of a foe who has already been defeated.
Those of us that accept Jesus’ victory on the cross need to read this verse and often be reminded that Jesus has already won. He’s after hearts on this earth, and hearts full of Him can’t lose.
3. The Impossible, Possible
“So the impossible is possible with God” (Luke 1:37, VOICE).
The entire Old Testament leads up to the birth of Christ. Jesus is proof, as if we needed more than the creation we gaze upon, that God will do what He has promised.
In light of unimaginable tragedy, we must remind ourselves of the incomprehensible grace that Jesus gave us through His human life and divine death on the cross.
There is more to this life than what we can see, but we can know the truth He tells us wholeheartedly.
In a different translation, this verse states, “For the word of God will never fail” (Luke 1:37 NLT). In my life, whenever I say “always” or “never”, it’s a sure sign that either or both will happen.
We’re not capable of upholding the promises of those words, but God is.
He can be trusted with our hearts through the most wrenching heartache we never thought we would ever have to witness, live through, or suffer at the hands of.
He is close.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18, NLT).
In light of what we learned from Luke 1:37, that God will uphold all of His promises, we can place our hope in this.
The prevalent hurt and suffering in modern society is palpable. Everywhere we turn there is another natural disaster of epic proportions or another massacre that has stolen more innocent lives.
Where those broken hearts are, He promises to be. In the flash of the nightly news that breaks our sleep cycles, He is there.
With those who’ve lost everything, again, He is there. It’s a difficult concept to embrace this side of heaven, where everything is unraveling so rapidly.
When our hearts break, we long to be rescued. He is there, waiting. Are we allowing ourselves to be saved?
5. Haunted, but Healed
“I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26b).
We are all looking to be healed from something. Humanity is plagued by sin; that’s a lot cast upon us in the garden. We are all fighting an affliction that society dubs “weakness.”
Physical pain, disease, depression, addiction, divorce, mourning…there isn’t always a means to an end or a cure-all to fix us.
God, our Healer, doesn’t consult humanity for answers. He is the God of miracles. Miracles can’t be explained, but that doesn’t mean they should be discounted overlooked.
In a suffering society, we forget to yield to the power of prayer and place our faith in the Healer.
We might be haunted by what ails us until He calls us home. Even if that is the case, we will get home when it’s Christ we follow. There will be no pain or suffering there.
6. Thankful Armor
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
It’s easy to let our natural ability to wallow overtake us when tragedy strikes our news feed. Suffering gracefully is not our human forte. But we’re supposed to try.
When the next big wave threatens to mull us, we need to remember to praise God for the cracks of light that remain in our lives.
There will be people in place to help us, and a Savior who died the most impossibly horrific death to allow us hope in all circumstances.
Gratitude is a powerful weapon that can deaden the enemy’s blow. We can start by remembering whose we are and what He’s done for us. It’s like putting on armor to protect our core as limbs flail and tears fall.
“…who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).
7. Shine Like a Star
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Within every scene of unimaginable sorrow lies a glimmer of hope. As assured as Waldo appears in every promised page of a child’s book, we can choose to keep swiping until we see something good.
There is a power that overcomes our spirit as the adrenaline flows in and out of “fight or flight” moments.
Humans are naturally inclined to reach out and help. As selfish as we have all become, when hatred explodes, there are always shards of Jesus’ love that push their way out of us.
“Never stop praying” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Prayer is not always our first reaction. Often, we scramble through our own minds for solutions and explanations before looking to the One with all of the answers.
God’s heart is moved by prayer. He hears us and answers us, putting a prayerful voice to pain.
Our lack of faith in prayer comes from the blank sheet of immediate proof that we often hold in our hands, or the empty timetable that our prayers were supposed to meet.
Time is in the hands of it’s Creator, and He will perfectly address every stanza we lift up to Him.
No matter what we are afraid the outcome will be, we must never stop praying. All others things we can stop: worry, fear, rushing…but praying? Never stop that.
9. We Have it All
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1).
In moments when the floor is ripped up from beneath us, whether figuratively or literally, having all that we need is the farthest thing from the way we feel. Feeling that having enough and knowing that we are enough are two different things.
Society paints “having enough” as an unfathomable achievement. There’s always something more. But how do we suffer gracefully when all we have has been taken away, trusting in God to sustain us from day to day?
Faith. WE have to have faith in someone other than ourselves to survive those moments. Release the desperate need to understand, and lift the status of life up to Him.
10. No One Knows
“No man knows when his hour will come” (Ecclesiastes 9:12a).
Suffering’s wake shouldn’t shock us as it rolls through our lives. We’re guaranteed it will happen, and the only way to prepare our lives to survive it is by preparing our hearts to endure it.
“As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them” (Ecclesiastes 9:12b).
“Fall unexpectedly,” does’t mean “deservedly.” Sometimes we forget that not all sufferings are answerable in this world.
There will be times when we experience Job-like suffering; he never earned any of the consequences his life endured.
There was another war going on around him, and a conversation between God and the devil that he knew nothing about, and his friends (convinced he somehow got what he deserved) knew nothing about.
The heartache that we endure on this earth is not always explainable; not in a way our minds can comprehend.
Though we are made in His image, we are not Him. To get through this tumultuous time that we live in, we must release our grip on explanation and let Him love us through.
Sometimes, that will look like a miracle. Other times, our hope of healing may come along with heaven. No matter what, we can’t lose hope.