There has been a heaviness hanging over me recently. A weight and deep sense of sadness that I cannot shake. It doesn’t affect my day to day mood or interactions on the surface, but it sits on my heart in the background as an ever-present call to prayer. Most, if not all, of my friends are facing life circumstances that are overwhelming, disappointing, or downright hard. As I receive each prayer request, I grieve over the brokenness of this world, the reality that life can be difficult, and that tomorrow and our plans are not guaranteed. I look at these situations and wonder how they will turn out one year from now. Will we be looking back and mourning losses or looking back in awe of miracles? Likely a combination of both, and there will undoubtedly be miracles in the midst of the losses.
I will admit that, although I have been a Christian for more than a decade, these unexpected hardships still rock me to my core. They take me by surprise when really they shouldn’t because Jesus flat out warned us that we would face trouble in this world. After washing the disciples’ feet and before he was arrested, he talked with his friends about many things and then said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT) The older I get the more it becomes apparent that even those people whom I assume have easy, trouble-free lives actually have faced many trials and sorrows, just as Jesus cautioned. No one is immune because, in a world full of sin, there is bound to be brokenness that touches all of us.
So where do we find comfort? Where do we find the ability to lift our head up and march onward? We find it in the One who is not surprised by these circumstances. The One who is never sitting in Heaven watching things unfold and saying “oh my goodness I can’t believe that happened!”. We find it in the One who longs to equip us to face life and draw us near to be our peace. We find it in the only One who has overcome the world – Jesus. We find it by intentionally and consistently remaining connected to God through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Word. When we do this, we learn and gain confidence in the character of God and his heart toward us. These become our foundation so that when life goes awry, Truth is lying in wait in our heart to remind us that Jesus is trustworthy and faithful.
The most vivid example I have of this in my own life is from five years ago. My family of origin was crumbling for a variety of reasons. It was a time where every ring of the phone produced a pit in my stomach and automatically sent me into flight or fight mode. It was also a time where I began to feel and experience the Holy Spirit in ways that I had not since first becoming a Christian. I felt the nearness of God and had a difference about me that was noticeable and commented on by close friends. And then, one night, we got a phone call and the news I feared receiving was confirmed. My dad, after a lifetime struggle with mental illness, had taken his own life. I will never forget the sound of that phone ringing, the voice of the one delivering this information, or where exactly I collapsed on our apartment floor. I will also never forget the deep sense of the nearness of Jesus that invaded my life in the next several weeks. I clearly remember thinking that God was not taken off guard by this situation and in his mercy, He had pursued my heart and mind in the days leading up to that phone call. He had strengthened my resolve and trust in him so that I would have the ability to turn to the Lord in one of the darkest hours of my life.
It was, and still remains, an impossibly difficult time to think about. Even while writing this I had moments where I had to walk away because I thought I might stop breathing. But friends, Jesus was not lying. There is sorrow and trouble in this world, but in Him there is peace and because of this we can “take heart” and trust that He is still on the throne of heaven. He loves us, he fights for us, and he weeps with us. His promises are true and He can be trusted both in the light and in the shadows. If you are facing trials and sorrows today, I pray that you will be refreshed by and pulled closer to the heart of God through His Word:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (Jesus, John 14:27, NIV)
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Paul, 2 Timothy 4:17-18, NIV)
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, NIV)
May nothing stop us from digging deep into the Word and prayer today, trusting that the Holy Spirit is able and longs to equip us for whatever we may face tomorrow. He is good, all the time.
*Hand Lettering Image by Sarah Boulware of LetterSeed.com