In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world.
Oh, how I wish this verse read differently:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I will overcome the trouble and take it from you.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! It will someday all make sense.
Instead, Jesus encouragement to those who are suffering is that He overcame the world.
How is this comfort to my good friend who has filled her house with family and friends helping her to provide round-the-clock care for her dying husband? How is this encouragement for her husband who has lived helplessly enduring the punishment his own body inflicts on his health and well-being? Yes, Jesus overcame the world, but, what about the here and now? What about the dwindling financial resources, the MS, the infections, fevers and seizures? What about today’s pain and agony?
Some suffering is mild. It is the everyday suffering of an unhappy, unfulfilled life. It is a suffering that lulls us into a false sense of control. “This is just my lot; I will endure.” This is a suffering that goes on needlessly because it does not realize that Jesus has overcome the world.
Some suffering is purposeful. It may be a strong suffering but the reasons for it are clear. It is a suffering that has a purpose and results in a reward. The pain of child-birth comes to mind. But, also, many of our day to day griefs result in a blessing that helps us understand the purpose of the grief.
But, some suffering is strong, and enduring and purposeless. What good comes of children losing their father or of future grandchildren never meeting a grandparent? What good comes of several lives being swallowed up in the deteriorating illness of a family member? One hopes the suffering brings the family closer but that is not always the case. Sometimes the suffering forces loved ones apart.
We want our lives to be carefully planned like the lesson plan of a teacher. We want a time for everything and everything in its proper place. We want to see progress in our life and faith like a grade recorded on a report card. We want to be prepared for every contingency. But grief and pain and suffering and sorrow rear their ugly heads and run roughshod over those plans.
Yet, it remains true: Jesus has overcome the world. The battles we fight, however real, are already won for us. The end result has been determined; it is the here and now that remains to be lived. We must take our Savior’s hand and look to the victory won for us.
I have so little that I can give that will ease the pain and suffering of my dear friends. I offer my prayers at many intervals during my day. God frequently brings them to my mind and to my heart.
Come quickly, Lord, Your good and faithful servant waits. He is ready to come home to You. We live in the gracious knowledge that through all the suffering we experience or witness, You have overcome this pain. We have senseless suffering but we do not fear evil; You have overcome this world and the new world waits.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23: 4