Got Tribulation? - Be of Good Cheer?
Very few “normal” people look forward to difficult trials and tribulations in their lives. In fact, most of us will do everything that we can to avoid hardship and testing. But should we?
In John 16, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the aftermath of his crucifixion. He tells them that they will be scattered in many directions, leaving him alone and yet he will not be alone because the Father is with him. He then proceeds to tell them a most astonishing thing. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” John 16:33 (NKJV). Is he serious? He tells them that they will desert him and be scattered and the reason that he tells them these things is so that they will have peace? He goes on to say that they will face tribulation which is defined as an “oppressive state of physical, mental, social or economic adversity.” Yet in the face of this, Jesus told them to “be of good cheer.” It was not just about being of good cheer in the face of adversity, it was about taking heart because Jesus has overcome the world.
Jesus words to the disciples are not an isolated occurrence. Time and time again we find examples, not of tolerating trials, but of looking forward to them and being glad. For instance, Peter writes: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” 1 Peter 4:12–13 (NLT). Perhaps some would consider it reasonable to be glad in spite of trials, but they balk at being glad because of them. James reinforces this thought: “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” James 1:2–3 (NIV). Peter tells us that when we are partners in Christ’s sufferings that we will have a front row seat when God’s glory is revealed to all the world and James lets us know that the testing of our faith will give us the stamina to withstand the things that will confront us.
Ultimately, God’s purpose for us in testing is so that we will have confidence in him no matter what happens to us. In Isaiah, God tells us: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” Isaiah 43:1-3 (NLT). We can have joy and gladness in the midst of tribulation because we are not alone and we are not without protection.
We may look around our world and be discouraged as we see a rising tide of evil, but do not despair, God is still God and his glory will be revealed in all the earth. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you” Isaiah 60:1–2 (NIV).