Nearly three years ago, on a sunny Saturday morning, I had just finished a long weekend run. As I stood in the kitchen drinking a Powerade, my phone rang. Looking at the California number on the ID and calculating the time difference, I knew before answering it that bad news was coming. And I was right. This was the call to tell me my Dad had died in his sleep early that morning.
Nobody likes hearing bad news. On His last night before His crucifixion, Jesus gave a lot of difficult news to His team. Among all the difficult things they would hear that night, Jesus adds this: “Look, an hour is coming and has already come when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and you will leave Me all alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!”
Talk about delivering bad news! You will all be scattered. You will desert me. Not only are you going to be deserters, you will constantly be having tribulation in the world. Ouch.
Yet, with the bad news comes a promise. “But take courage; I have overcome the world!” They probably thought something like, “Okay that’s nice for you, but what about us who haven’t overcome the world?”
These guys did not yet understand that the Spirit of Christ would be given to them. Since Christ had overcome the world (and by implication, the tribulations He is promising), by His Spirit they would overcome the world and the tribulations.
In the last post I mentioned that our God intends to walk through our adversities with us, to redeem them for our betterment, to free us from some of the consequences of our rebellion through them. But why adversity? Why difficulty, pain, and at times desperate situations?
God created us to live without significant difficulty in life, but in our rebellion against Him we “inherited” significant difficulty, painful experiences. It is our nature to go our own way and to practically if not completely ignore our God. The difficulty and pain we experience, coming to us because we rebelled, cannot be avoided. Yet it is redeemed and made useful, for our God will use it to diminish our self-life and rebellious nature.
Just look at Jesus Himself. How did He overcome the world? Through the difficulty of becoming one of us, living the life of a wanted and hated person, then allowing himself to be tortured and die on our behalf. He used the trouble that came to Him to redeem us, mend us, heal us, and make us into who we were created to be. And He will use the trouble that we cannot escape to mend us, heal us, and make us more into who we were created to be. Our difficulties are neither pointless nor wasted. The closer we come to our created purpose in life, the more our lives will be filled with true joy, peace, and purity of purpose. This is the beauty of the redemption of our sorrows and tribulations.
The next post in this series will explore the attitudes we need to make use of adversity.