“… In the world you will have tribulation…”
— John 16:33
Scripture is full of promises. This one is my least favorite. In John 15–16, Jesus talks about the suffering that will occur for believers. Loss, grief, the pain of childbirth, being “pruned like a vine on a branch.”
In each of these illustrations, Jesus explains that he will use the pain. When a branch endures the pain of the pruning process, it bears more fruit. When a mother endures the pain of childbirth, most of the time the result is a baby that gives value to the pain. When we endure loss, he promises, “Your sorrow will turn into joy.” (John 16:20)
Take a few minutes, when you have time, to read John 15–16. A few years ago I found myself in a really dark season. Much of my suffering was a result of circumstances outside of my control, but I added to my own suffering by handling the pain poorly. A friend suggested a program called Re:generation. In the year that it took to walk through the curriculum, I saw God change my life in a radical way.
There are 12 steps in Re:generation, but check out the first and the last below:
1. We admit we are powerless.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
— Romans 7:18
12. Because of our new lives in Christ, we carry God’s message of reconciliation to others and practice these biblical principals in every aspect of our lives.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
— 2 Corinthians 5:17–18
This is the role of suffering in the life of the believer. Suffering points to our need for God. When we handle our suffering appropriately (Re:generation steps 2–11), he turns our mess into a message. I can say that this is true, because I’ve lived it.
I wish I could say that the dark season I endured four or five years ago was the last season of suffering I’ve walked through, but that simply isn’t true. The difference now is that, when I suffer, I suffer with hope.
I started today with part of John 16:33. It is dangerous to take Scripture out of context. The promise of suffering can be discouraging. But, look at those words in context:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But, take heart; I have overcome the world.”
— John 16:33
No pain, no problem, no grief is too big for God. He is a redeemer, and he never wastes a hurt. Lean into him. He is trustworthy, and he is not afraid of our pain.
Shameless plug: Re:generation meets on Tuesday nights at the Sunnyvale campus from 6:30–8:30 p.m. Come check it out. There is a place for everyone. You won’t regret it.