John 14:3 (ESV) … “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.”
What is a Christian to do when the world he knows falls in? What is he to do in the day of great trouble?
This is not an idle question because, although we do not always like to think about it, life is filled with troubles. Disappointment is a trouble, and there are many disappointments. We are disappointed with ourselves, for we are not always what we want to be. We want to be strong, but we are weak. We want to be successful, but we experience many failures. We want to be liked, but often people are at best indifferent to us. We are also often disappointed with other people, with a husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, employer, partner, employee, or whatever the case may be.
Circumstances, too, are a source of troubles. In some cases we can do something about the circumstances, and we try to; but this is not always so. Poverty cannot always be changed, and poverty is troubling. The loss of a loved one is also beyond our control, and this is devastating. So is loss of a job, sickness, or even uncertainty about the future, the last of which is particularly unsettling in these times.
And what about spiritual troubles, when it seems as though the Lord’s presence is withdrawn and we are plunged alone into what has well been described as the “dark night” of the soul? What are we to do in such circumstances? What are we to do with despair? The answer is that we are to take ourselves in hand and by a deliberate exercise of mind strengthen our faith in God. We are to think of him and so overcome trouble by reminding ourselves of the power and promises of God and by trusting in him.
Our text (John 14:1-3) is a call to us to become strong Christians, not the kind who weep and wail and expect everyone to pity them, but rather the kind who are of great stature in faith and who are a source of strength to others. The text says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).
Cause to Be Troubled
There are two important things about this text, and the first, quite paradoxical in view of what I have just said, is that frequently we have cause to be troubled.
It would not be necessary to make so much of this point if it were not that there is a kind of Pollyanna Christianity in our day that seeks to deny it. It is the kind of Christianity that pretends that there are no troubles for any truly surrendered child of God. This view of life takes Romans 8:28 to mean that only good things come into the life of one who truly loves God (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”), rather than seeing that the verse actually says that evil will indeed come but that God will nevertheless accomplish his own good purposes in spite of it. This view is unrealistic and uninformed, for evil does exist. Troubles do come. Death is an enemy. So, rather than denying these things, we must begin by a realistic recognition of them.
Obviously, it was this that prompted Christ’s saying, for it was clear to him that from a human viewpoint the disciples, to whom he was speaking, had cause for deep agitation.
For one thing, he himself had been troubled. We know this because we are told about it in the previous chapter: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit” (v. 21). Was this not unusual and troubling in itself? Was it not a cause for dismay that he who had been their stay in every troubled sea, their refuge in every hostile crowd, should be troubled? Moreover, he had also indicated that he was about to be taken from them. He had said it before, but they had not fully understood him. Now the message got through, and they were in turmoil. He was their life. For him they had left family, home, and occupation. What would they do once he was gone from them? What could fill the void left in their aching and anxious hearts?
Nor is this all. If there were nothing more, the disciples might have comforted themselves with the thought that, regardless of what might happen, still they loved him and would be faithful to him or to his memory forever. But they were really not free to think this, for he had told them that one of their number, Judas, should betray him, and that another, Peter, should deny him three times before morning.
Did the disciples have cause to be troubled? Certainly they did! From this we learn that it is not wrong to honestly recognize and even analyze our problems.
We may add another point also. It is also not wrong to recognize and openly acknowledge things that trouble others. Here is a useful principle in counseling. Sometimes when a person comes to us with a problem, as people do to me constantly, we want to minimize their problem. We want to say, “But that is not so bad. Think how things could be worse.” We may even want to tell stories of those we know who were in even worse circumstances. But we must not do this. Nothing is gained by minimizing the problems. Instead, we must hear the troubled soul out, and we must acknowledge that in many, if not all, cases there is that which rightly troubles him. Indeed, we must even “mourn with those who mourn,” as Paul says in the great ethical section of the letter to the Romans (12:15).
More Cause Not to Be
So Christians are realists. They are realists about all life’s problems. At the same time, however, we must add that they are realists about the power of God and his promises. And this means that although there is cause to be troubled, nevertheless, there is even greater cause not to be. This is the second important point. Regardless of what there may be to cause us to be troubled as Christians, there is more cause not to be troubled.
What are the reasons why we should not be troubled? In these verses there are five of them. First, we know Jesus. He is God. He knows about us and our circumstances. He is able to deal with them. Therefore, there is every reason to trust him. Jesus indicates this when he issues the challenge, “Trust in God, trust also in me.”