My job as a pastor would be a lot easier if it weren’t for trouble. Call it job security, I guess, but however you look at it, our world is filled with trouble.
When Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble,” He wasn’t kidding. Not even close. We wish He would have said, “You won’t have trouble” or even “You might have trouble.” Anything but “You will have trouble.”
But He was right. And because of that, a lot of my work as a pastor is centered on helping people deal with and move through trouble in healthy ways, assisting the hurting in getting up after hardship knocks them down and considering ways they can take heart while they suffer with heavy hearts.
However trouble comes, be it a loss of health, the death of a loved one, an unexpected pink slip, a financial crisis or a relational meltdown, it can devastate one’s emotional, spiritual, relational and physical well-being. I wouldn’t have a clue how to help those on the brink of losing heart in the aftermath of some unexpected problem if Jesus hadn’t warned us and told us how to deal with troubles.
I recently taught on John 16, where Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” I was intrigued by the three words that follow that statement. Without those three words, His audience would have been left discouraged and depressed. The three words: “But take heart.”
At first glance, that doesn’t seem very helpful. In fact, it seems as unhelpful as when something bad happens and someone comes up to you and says, “Cheer up!” Or in the midst of a catastrophe, Annie comes along and starts singing “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”
But Jesus didn’t end with “But take heart.” If you have a Bible handy, I encourage you to take a look at John 16, where Jesus gives some very practical training on how to “take heart” when you’re struggling with a heavy heart. That was precisely the condition Jesus’ followers were in at the time. They had left everything to follow Jesus for the previous three-and-a-half years, and suddenly Jesus was just going to leave them?
He told them that the grief they were feeling would only be for “a little while” and that one day it would be replaced with joy. The troubles, pain, confusion and fear we face in this world are only for a while. It’s not the end of the story. Jesus told them to think about what they were going through like a mother in labor – incredible pain, but she knows on the other side of the pain lies a bundle of joy that will make the pain she endured worth it.
Jesus took to heart His own counsel. While He was enduring the cross for us, He focused on the joy that awaited Him on the other side of the pain. Beyond the crucifixion was exhilarating joy. That knowledge lifted Jesus’ heavy heart just as it can lift ours.
So when your life is filled with trouble, remember that it’s part of living in this world. We can’t escape it. No one can. But we can look beyond the times of pain and fear and confusion to the joy ahead for those who trust God with their lives. The other side of trouble is joy.
If you take Jesus’ words to heart, it will do your heart good.
The Rev. Dave Gudgel is lead pastor of Bridges Community Church, 625 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos. For more information, visit www.connectbcc.org.