“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.” These are the words Jesus spoke to His disciples in John 16:33 both to warn them of what lay ahead and to encourage them in it. Most of us readily identify with the trouble part, while finding it more elusive to have peace in the trouble. Peace can actually seem out of reach when we’re confronted with serious physical diagnoses, damage that causes a home to become a money pit, the loss of a job due to cutbacks, or raising healthy children in a morally corrupt culture. There is literally no end to trouble, and it can become so overwhelming that it is tempting to think Jesus has left us to fend for ourselves.
Many of us have the wrong idea of Jesus’ involvement in our affairs. For years I felt that a loving God would simply deliver me from whatever hardship I was facing – surely, He has the power to do so. I was doing my best to try to trust Him in my circumstances instead of taking matters into my own hands, but I found myself disappointed again and again with seemingly unanswered prayers.
Without my realizing it, the Lord was teaching me some very important lessons through my hardships that centered around His Wisdom and Character. I learned that God does not normally violate His laws of nature, or the freewill of man. When He does, it represents a bona fide miracle. This truth changed the way I prayed. If I wanted to participate in answered prayer, then I needed to ask Him how He wanted me to pray: not my will, but His will be done. This sounded simple enough, except for all those times I felt I really needed His intervention and was justified in my request because it was the “right” thing.
In the enormous complexity of all the affairs of all the people in the entire world, not to mention the affairs of all the nations, we can never begin to imagine how God works everything out. Yet, He is Lord of ALL. It is His love for His creation that drives Him; His love that gave up His only Son for our salvation and forgiveness; His love that does not control or compel our lives. It is His great love that allows us to walk through trouble to learn invaluable life lessons through the process. The Apostle Paul breaks it down this way, “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:34-35) To these physical threats, Paul adds the spiritual threats of verses 38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s love explains when He does the miraculous, as well as when He allows for a process. He is just as present in one as the other and has chosen what He alone knows we need. When it feels that God has abandoned us to hardship, we can know the enemy of our souls is at work with his lies. That is simply NOT Who God is. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Paul had the privilege of being caught up to heaven where I personally believe he saw Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father (prophesied in the OT). We know from Romans 8:34 that Jesus is constantly specifically praying for us in all our difficulties. For me, that has forever put to rest where God is in the crisis and in all of normal life. It gives great meaning to Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”