It has been a couple weeks now since Easter, and over a month since the country (and the world) began closing down to limit the spread of COVID-19. Perhaps you are doing okay with the stay-at-home orders. Perhaps you are going stir-crazy. Perhaps you are lonely and depressed. I think it is safe to say that all of us–even the introverts–miss interacting with others and feel isolated and alone.
In John 16, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, preparing them for His upcoming death. They are still oblivious, but He knows the bewilderment, abandonment, fear, and sorrow that they will experience as they see Him laid in the tomb. Sorrow for the loss of a friend and teacher, fear for what will happen to them, abandonment as they feel their world turned upside-down, and bewilderment as they wonder, “What just happened? Wasn’t Jesus the Messiah? Why is He dead? Did He fail? Did God desert us?”
In 16:22, Jesus says, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” He knows that He will rise again, and over and over in His discourse in chapters 14-17, He reassures them that
- He comforts them and gives them peace (14:1+, 27; 16:33)
- He will not leave them alone; He will return to them and they will see Him again (14:18+; 16:16-22)
- He will give them a Helper, the Holy Spirit (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7+)
- He has already won the battle. Already. His victory over Satan, death, and sin on the cross was a done deal, before it even happened. (14:30-31; 16:33)
He also tells them why He is saying these things–that they might believe who He is (14:29), that they might have His joy in them (15:11), that they might know that nothing they are experiencing is a surprise to Him (16:1-4), and that they might have peace (16:33).
The Bible does not promise us an easy ride through life. In fact, it says we should not be surprised at persecution and suffering (15:18-16:4). But our comfort is in knowing that through it all, God is with us. Over and over throughout Scripture we read God’s words: Do not fear, I will be with you, I will not forsake you.
If the uncertainty of the future worries you, remember Jesus’ words. Just as He told them, the disciples did see Him again. And because He rose from the dead, we have joy that no one can take from us. Because He rose, we know that He is who He says He is. We don’t have to wonder if He’s really the Son of God, or if His death really did take care of the penalty for our sins, or if He’s really the Messiah. His resurrection proves it. If He was an ordinary guy, He’d still be dead. If His death wasn’t sufficient to pay for our sins, God the Father would not have accepted His sacrifice…and He’d still be dead. His resurrection assures us that we can trust Him.
And that means that we can believe every word He says. No matter what the economy does, no matter how alone we feel, no matter how overwhelmed we might be. He is with us. He will not forsake us. He will not leave us. Some days it’s easier to believe this promise than others, but that doesn’t change the fact that this promise is, indeed, a fact. No matter how you feel, Jesus won’t change. He won’t change, so the promise won’t change. Read John 14-17, and let Jesus’ words sink in. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (14:1). “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (14:27). “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 16:33).