One of the most shocking discoveries many people make early on in their Christian journey is that Christians have not been given special immunity from the hardships, troubles, and difficulties of life. In fact, in many cases, these hard parts of life may increase as result of our faith in Christ. These experiences can be tough, and, if not understood in light of God’s Word, can even seem to choke our faith in God.
Jesus knew that this was what life would look like for his disciples and for those who would believe in him through their evangelistic efforts. He knew that he was calling them to leave the lives they had known behind and to take this good news to the ends of the earth. And he knew that this would be a hard mission and that they would inevitably get into trouble.
But our Savior did not leave them or us without wonderful gifts meant to sustain us through our darkest days. In John 13—16, we find Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples in the upper room. Within 24 hours, he would be arrested, tried, tortured, and murdered on a Roman cross. John makes it clear that Jesus knew the type of death he would die and that he knew “his hour had come”(John 13:1).
So, how does Jesus spend his last night we these men?
I believe he gave them what they would remember as one of his most beloved teachings. He said things that not only must have resounded in their memories the rest of their days, but also would be meditated on by countless Christians in every generation since. There is so much to understand and study in this passage, but I’d like to point out three truths that Christ reiterates with these men. They are his parting gifts in a sense, and I believe they are especially helpful during our own times of crisis.
The Gift of Faith
In John 14:1, Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”The moment that the disciples and Jesus himself were experiencing was tragic. If ever there was a time to fear the future, they were in middle of it. Their circumstances were troubling. So how can Jesus say, “don’t let your hearts be troubled”at this moment? It seems like the perfect time for them to let their hearts be troubled.
In order to understand, we must consider the rest of the verse. Jesus continued, “Believe in God; believe also in me.”Notice Jesus doesn’t comfort the disciples the way we tend to comfort one another. When someone in our lives is going through crisis, we tend to say things like, “It’s going to be alright”or “This too shall pass.”We like to point to indicators that the crisis will eventually end. We default to helping people see the light at the end of a dark tunnel.
But Jesus doesn’t do that. He starts by commanding them to have faith. He teaches that when their hearts are weighed down with fears and anxieties, they must actively believe in God and actively believe in himself. Christ’s solution to hard circumstances is not better circumstances, but unwavering faith in who God is in the midst of those hard circumstances.
So, when our hearts are troubled, Jesus commands us to actively practice our faith. We remember and pray things like, “I believe in God, my Heavenly Father. And I believe in Jesus Christ his only son who died for me. I believe God loves me and is in control of everything that happens in my life. He is good. He is powerful. He is perfect in his wisdom. I’m safe in him. Nothing can happen to me unless he allows it. Even the hardest things in my life he promises to work for my good.”And in so doing, we call our troubled hearts back to belief in God.
Our hearts are prone to forget who God is and how much he loves us and cares for us, which makes Jesus’ teaching wonderful to those beaten down by fear and anxiety. He teaches us to remember the truths we’ve been taught about God and to continue believing and trusting that they are true. The remedy for a troubled heart is not better circumstances, but more faith in God.
The Gift of Hope
Immediately following this call to faith, Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also”(John 14:2—3). Jesus doubles down on the idea that our greatest comfort in times of crisis does not come from an improvement of our circumstances. Sometimes the thorns aren’t taken away and life’s difficulties don’t always end in this life.
One only has to think of those who have been called to suffer in various ways for years, decades, and even for the rest of their lives. Some diagnoses only end in death even as some missionaries die in the field. How should Christ followers handle these enduring crises?
For this, Christ points the disciples and us to our eternal hope. He reminds these men of the wonderful truth that there is a place for them with him in his eternal kingdom. The blessed hope of the Christian is not that this world and our lives in it will necessarily get better before he comes, but that he is preparing a place for us and our future is eternally secure with him.
Many times, Christians slip into letting their hope rest in their remaining days in this world. Our hopes digress into being able to live out our days on this earth the way we want, where we want, and with whom we want. But Christ makes no such promise. Instead, he points us to our eternal inheritance and promises we will forever be exactly where we want to be and with him, the one our souls delight to love forever.
So, Christ encourages the disciples to lift up their eyes and see the hope of their eternal reward whenever present circumstances would weigh them down and trouble their hearts. Even so, when we experience difficulties, we may find that our hope for the future has been seated too firmly in this world and should be lifted up and seated with Christ in the world to come.
The Gift of Peace
Jesus also gave his disciples the gift of peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”(John 14:27). The promise of peace was repeated again in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.”Jesus’ first words when appearing to the disciples after his resurrection were, “Peace be with you…”(John 20:19). There seems to be a theme of peace running throughout this passage and throughout the life and ministry of Jesus.
Here was a man who had every reason to not be at peace. He had every reason to be anxious and fearful about what lay ahead for him. We too easily succumb to fear of the future we don’t know. He was at peace despite the horrific future of which he was certain. Surely this is why Paul wrote that the peace of God “surpasses all understanding”(Phil 4:7). What wonderful peace Christ had to be able to face such crisis and keep his heart in perfect peace. We will spend eternity worshiping in awe and amazement at the perfect peace of Christ.
How much more precious that Jesus gives us his peace as a gift. Jesus is not just saying, “Act peacefully.”He is saying, “My peace I give to you.”Christians have the wonderful privilege of asking Christ for this promised peace. We can come to Christ in the hardest of times, as Christians have for millennia, and ask him for his peace, confident that Christ is always eager to give what he has promised.
This peace is a thread that runs through church history. Some of my favorite moments from Christian biographies are times when God’s people were going through hard times, enduring terrible losses, and even facing death, and yet were filled with Christ’s peace. Surely the light of Christ has shone brightest when his people have been called to suffer and yet were overflowing with his supernatural peace.
Thanks be to God that in times of crisis we are not left to ourselves, but can look to Christ and ask him to increase our faith, remind us of our eternal hope, and give us fresh supply of his perfect peace.