Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
This is a very consoling promise. Jesus warned us that we would be tested because we belong to him. The world has little time or concern for someone who is trying to follow Jesus. For those who judge work and endeavour by the monitory results accruing from it, then Christian love would rate very low on the scale of things. The Christian is an exile in this world. He does not belong here, but is just passing through.
We are a pilgrim people, on our way to the Promised Land. Like the Israelites in the desert, there are many trials and tribulations along the way. Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land, but Jesus has already entered there. That is why he can assure us that our destiny is sure and certain. He has the victory, and he assures us that nothing along the way of life can prevent us moving towards our eternal destiny. St. John says "Little children, there is a spirit within you that is more powerful than any evil spirit you will meet on the road of life." (1 John 3:9).
When a person is being wheeled into an operation theatre, the main concern is that the operation be a success. I would be more at ease, in such a situation, if I could be given definite guarantees that all would go well. As I encounter the trials and sorrows of life, it is much easier to deal with them when I am assured that everything will be alright in the end. Not only will I survive them, but my survival will be eternal. In an earlier reflection, we considered the outcome of a promise where Jesus gave us full authority over all the power of the evil one. He told us that nothing would harm us. In that promise, he told us that we were protected from the attacks of Satan. In the promise on which we now reflect, he assures us that we are also protected against the attacks of the world.
Jesus offers to share his power and strength with us. We should claim that strength. We can claim all the strength we need for any situation. Jesus has given us a right to claim it, and we should exercise our right. A beggar supplicates, a child appropriates. We are children of the Father, who sent Jesus to reveal the Father's love to us. If he cares so much for the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field, how much more can we be assured that he will care for us (Matthew 6:26).
There are two certainties in this promise. The first is that, on earth, we will have many trials and sorrows. The second is that Jesus has overcome the world, and we can share in his victory over everything that burdens us. We all probably have ample proof about that first part of the promise. We may not, however, have discovered the reality of the promise itself, at the end. That would be a great pity. The Christian is an eternal optimist, someone who lives with the victory of Jesus, who walks in his strength, and who relies totally on his promises.
There are many solutions on offer for the trials and tribulations of life. These range from medicine, to psychiatry, to drugs, to one of the many self-help programmes available. Some people even look to suicide as a solution. Unfortunately, this is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. While medicine, psychiatry, and other treatments all have a valid and real part to play in our struggles with the pains and aches of life, it would be a tragedy if the Christian saw this as a first option, and turned to God, when all of this has failed. God's phone number should never be listed under "Emergencies Only"!
"Somebody else had a heavier cross than the one I bear today, and the cross were far too much for me, had not Somebody led the way." What a freedom it is for us to accept the promises of Jesus, without question or equivocation; to simply believe it, because Jesus said it. The only way I can ever discover whether the promises hold good, is when I accept them, act on them, move on, and expect everything to turn out as Jesus promised. Jesus will never disappoint you. If you expect him to answer your prayers, he will. Can we expect him to answer, when we refuse to believe that he will?
I cannot give a definite answer to this question, because I refuse to believe that Jesus is spiteful, and he will get his own back on us for not believing him. I can accept that his answer may well be 'no', if that's what it takes to get us to take him seriously. "When a man finds himself lying on the ground, face downwards, with his nose buried in the rubble of his achievements, he is ready to be wafted by the breath of God across the chasm of infested waters, into a land of hope, of new birth, and of new beginnings." What Patrick Kavanagh is telling us here is that, when we've been broken enough, we may be ready to submit, let God take over, and bring us to where we never could go of ourselves.