“I have said these things to you, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation (trouble). But take heart, I have overcome the world.” -Jesus (John 16:33)
I think it’s safe to say that safety is an illusion. Another mass shooting reminds us that we do not live in a society at peace. But the war that is going on is not one that is being fought in the normal way. And we are spectators in a nasty theater that, if we let it, will continue to inform our lives and the way we are living them. The dominant story in our world today is terror. We read it’s tragic headlines. We live in its shadow. We drink of its kool-aid. We react in fear.
So… what are we to do with ourselves in the wake of continual headlines that remind us there is no peace on earth? What happens if or when the headline is about our workplace, our neighborhood, our city? How will we react? Will we, like the New York Daily News, announce to the world that “God isn’t fixing this”? Will we get sucked in to the well designed headlines and news stories that seek to inform and reform the way we think? That’s what I’d like to address today.
How can an apprentice of Jesus find themselves at peace in the midst of the firestorm? Here are five preparations we can make in light of the words of Jesus about trouble in this world.
- Learn Jesus. There is a way to live, a way to respond, a way to interact, and a way to engage the world around you. Jesus taught this way. He also taught that few would walk in his way. He was right. His way is about embracing humility, suffering, and trouble… but in a way that overcomes pain and struggle. The deep spiritual strength that resided in Jesus potentially can reside in you. But you must learn Christ. “How?” You may ask. Keep reading.
- Breath His Words. Everyday you breath in and breath out fresh air. Your lungs fill with air and oxygen flows through your blood. The more you take in, the more healthy you become. Spiritually, the Words of Jesus are air to your lifeless soul. Without the quickening of truth in the inmost parts of your soul, you will suffocate spiritually and die. Your only hope for life in this world is to inhale something of life giving substance. The Bible is just that. Breath to the soul. Go to my post When & If You Read Your Bible for a better treatment of how to approach the Word.
- Expect Trouble. I don’t mean live in fear. The reality of this dark world is that we may avoid trouble and trials our entire lives, but eventually we will come face to face with our own idol of comfort. And we will have to lay down our lives for something greater. Eventually trouble will find us. If we don’t expect that it will come, then we will foolishly be blindsided when we encounter it. Consider yourself warned.
- Inspire Hope. Erwin McManus talks about this in his book “An Unstoppable Force“. “It can be sobering to realize that a major portion of our lives is given to preparing the next generation for life… In the prime of our lives we begin the process of replacing ourselves…The more one focuses on one’s own living, the less one is concerned about giving life to others…In the end, it is not so much about prolonging or perpetuating our own life as about giving new life to others.” We must inspire hope in people. Hope is not just telling people that their life will be easy. It is preparing them for the difficulties of life when they arise and giving them hope to endure beyond those difficulties. What lies on the other side is what we need to keep perspective on. That is where our hope lies.
- Trust Jesus. Ultimately, the fate of the world is not in our hands. We may walk into work today and literally not come back. That is the reality that we live in in our nation. We have not been promised prosperity here on earth. We have not been promised comfort, applause, or control. That’s just not in the cards for us. What we have been promised is the heart of our King. We have been promised that a place is being prepared for us. We have been promised a companion (God Himself in Spirit) to walk with through life with us. We have been promised that there is One whom we can put our confidence in that when life gets hard, He will overcome.
All creation is groaning for a return to paradise. We wake to it. We see it on the news. We feel it in our souls. But not yet. Paradise is not here right now. We will experience many moments of peace, of comfort, of beauty, of momentary glimpses of paradise. But we will not be allowed to stay in those moments because they are pointers to something greater.
The gifts of life all point us to the Giver of Life. Until we recognize this truth, we will continue to see the world through the lens of fear as we hold on tightly to all that we possess in an effort to keep our lives the way we want them.
Jesus made it very clear, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24) Welcome to the upside-down kingdom. The way up is down. The way in is out. The way through is narrow. The way to peace is through the storm.
How do you struggle to overcome your fears when you hear the headlines of the day? What fears do you need to lay to rest today in order to move forward in strength and confidence in yourself and in the Lord?