When Jesus speaks about the world, he is very realistic. He speaks about wars and revolutions, earthquakes, plagues and famines, persecution and imprisonment, betrayal, hatred and assassinations. There is no suggestion at all that these signs of the world’s darkness will ever be absent. But still, God’s joy can be ours in the midst of it all. It is the joy of belonging to the household of God whose love is stronger than death and who empowers us to be in the world while already belonging to the kingdom of joy.
I read about a man who had a weather vane on his barn that said “God is love.” When asked why it said that, he told them that it was a reminder to him. “No matter which way the wind blows, God is love.” How simple, but how profound – and how true! No matter what “weather” comes our way – God is love. God is faithful. God is sufficient. God is with us. God is good. God is working in our lives to accomplish His plans and purposes. Whatever way the wind blows in our lives – God is there with whatever we need. And He’s still working miracles!
When facing life’s troubles, Paul lists three instructions:
1) Be joyful in hope.
2) Be patient in affliction.
3) Be faithful in prayer.
While counter-intuitive to the natural man, this reaction is natural for the believer. It comes by the incredible privilege of having a daily relationship with Christ. No matter what we are facing, when He is our treasure, we find the grace that is needed bubbling up in our souls. Instead of passive hopelessness, we find ourselves active and secured by an enduring, steadfast, unshakeable, supernatural, blood-bought strength. Instead of retreating, we’re able to pray and release God’s love, power, and answers for ourselves and for those around us.
The little troubles and worries of life may be as stumbling blocks in our way, or we may make them stepping-stones to a nobler character and to Heaven. Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things.
We don’t get stronger in faith by avoiding our fears. What’s true about our physical bodies is also true about our spirits: the only way to get stronger is to work out. And we only overcome the paralysis of fear as we take our next step in faith. We initiate the conversation; we make the contribution; we show up for the meeting; we obey God in the small thing. And the momentum of each step pushes against the force field of fear, weakening its power to control us.
Even when we’ve prayerfully and carefully sought God’s guidance, “it does not follow that right guidance will be vindicated by a trouble-free course thereafter” (p. 239). Numerous examples in the Bible show people falling into trouble who were directly where God led them: the Israelites between Pharaoh and the Red Sea; the disciples in a boat in a storm, a boat that Jesus sent them off in; Paul in prison, Jesus Himself on the cross, just to name a few. An easy path doesn’t always mean we’re on the right road: a troubled path doesn’t necessarily mean we are on the wrong one.