Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:32-33
One month ago, when my world started shutting down, I wasn’t panicked or fearful. Just annoyed. Long lines everywhere, canceled plans, hysteria, news briefings. I am a creature of routine and all this change was unsettling, but I wasn’t panicked or fearful. From this lofty perch I constructed, I was in a good position to judge those who I felt were overreacting, leaders who I felt were drunk on power, and those who I felt were feeding into the frenzy.
Slowly, a change was born in me. It started on a Costco line when I listened to people’s fears. It grew a little as I heard about the impact of the virus from friends in Spain and Italy and even more as I talked to medical staff and first responders and elderly people who had lost friends. It was when I took the time to hear people’s perspectives, to put myself in their shoes, to listen well, that I began to understand something very real.
The world is changed.
It does that on occasion. Abruptly, without warning. From natural disasters to war to genocide, we can go to bed in one world and wake up in another. And it was time for me to wake up. All around me there were people in real pain with real fears and my feeling superior was of no help to anyone and certainly did not reflect the compassionate Savior I serve.
I decided then to lean into this chaos. Not in a binge-watching the news kind of way, but in an I’m-not-exempt-from-hardship kind of way. Who am I to be okay with hard things as long as they don’t directly affect me? My friend posted on Instagram to think about your panicked purchases of pasta and toilet paper the next time you are tempted to judge someone seeking refuge from war and illness. Wow.
Christians living in the United States are not exempt from trouble. Jesus promises we will have it, in fact.
In the world you will have tribulation. John 16:33
Too often, even though I know better, I serve the gods of comfort and convenience and control. I want to want more of Jesus more than those counterfeit substitutes.
So how can I get there?
Here’s the rest of John 16:33, Jesus told his disciples: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Interestingly, he says in v.32 that they will be scattered to their own homes. He is talking about them abandoning Him at the time of His death, but I think the isolation of being away from our community has application here too – how beautiful that our Savior recognizes that unique vulnerability.
Jesus says to take heart and to have peace in Him. Even when we cannot gather, we can plug into His peace. I won’t let the loneliness of isolation take me to a dark place. I will be mindful about seeking out whatever connection I can. I will saturate my mind in the Word and promises of God.
The Bible is full of talk about enduring trials. And, here’s the truth, I will see the other side of COVID-19. But will it be a precious memory of a time of growth or something I remember with disdain?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything… Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:2-4, 12
Pure joy when I face trials? How is that accomplished?
Studying Philippians, I am impressed by Paul’s perspective on suffering. He pretty much says we don’t have to endure this, we get to endure this (Philippians 1:29). You and I have been chosen to live in this unique moment in history. I want to embrace this with joy as I seek maturity and completion. I want that crown of life because I know the life that Jesus offers is the fullest and best life (John 10:10).
So I hope that I grow personally during this time. I hope that I can be an example to my children and this will be a time of joy for our family as we hunker down together. I hope that I will see each inconvenience, each moment of worry as an invitation to trust God more, to place all my hope in what cannot be shaken.
But more than that, I want to take advantage of opportunities to help others find the peace of Jesus.
We are image-bearers. Let’s be peace-sharers.