“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In the early 1970’s, country music star, Lynn Anderson recorded the song Rose Garden, which went to the top of the charts and sold multiple millions of copies. The lyrics of the song echo Jesus’ words in John 16. “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden, along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain sometime.”
It is obvious that Jesus did not have a Public Relations firm paving the pathway of his earthly ministry. Or, he never would have said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” The word “tribulation” in this passage simply means trouble. Life in this world is filled with trouble.
Jesus understood intimately, a life dogged by tribulation. Whether it was King Herod seeking to kill the newborn baby king or the Jewish Sanhedrin crying out “Crucify Him!” that ultimately led to his suffering on the Cross of Calvary. Jesus faced these troubles and more, head on, and came out victorious in the end. Through it all, his life, his death, and his resurrection, Jesus did overcome the world. He then promised overcoming power to those would place their trust in him. He spoke seven promises to those who overcome in the first three chapters of The Revelation alone. The word “overcome” means “to conquer.”
Contrary to Jesus’ words and his examples, many arenas of Christianity today, preach a gospel of health and wealth as a reward of hooking one’s wagon Jesus’ star. But my friend, Jesus never promised us a rose garden. Along with the beauty of the rose bush and its breathtaking blossoms, comes the thorns line the stems.
This past week, in the middle of a family trial, emergency surgery and hospitalization for my dear wife Sandy, I came across the following quote, “Faith doesn’t always take you out of the problem, faith takes you through the problem. Faith doesn’t always take away the pain, faith gives you the ability to handle the pain. Faith doesn’t always take you out of the storm, faith calms you in the midst of the storm.”
Psalm 23 tells us of the Lord who is our Shepherd. He is present in the green valley’s and beside the still waters of life. He is also present when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. This Shepherd has promised never to leave us or forsake us, whether life is easy and overflowing with goodness and blessing, or when life is filled with struggles and trials and troubles.
So, whether you are on the mountain top today or walking through a dark valley, let the words from Deuteronomy 31:6 be of comfort to you, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”