A Reason to Remain Hopeful
Sometimes the cancer is not cured. Sometimes the slum remains a slum. Sometimes the marriage fails and the friendship ends. Sometimes our hearts break. We suffer; we hurt; we experience loss; we ache. In the midst of these very real battles, Jesus speaks to us out of his own sorrow and grief to remind us that, in the end, hope will win. In the end, life will overcome death, joy will overcome sorrow, freedom will overcome bondage, and triumph will overcome loss.
Still, we wait.
When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” it wasn’t just a prediction about the future. It was also an identity statement. Whenever Jesus uses the words I am to describe himself, he is claiming to be God. I am is Old Testament language that Jews like Mary and Martha understood to mean one thing. They would instantly remember Moses and the burning bush, out of which the Maker of the universe spoke the words, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
The same God who created the galaxies with a breath, who split the ocean with words, and who calls a dead man out of a tomb is the God who is going to make all things new and whose words are trustworthy and true.
Yet we struggle to lay hold of these realities in a broken here and now.
Confronting Worst Case Scenarios
During occasional seasons in my adult life I have suffered from insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks. Whenever these seasons have come, the anxiety was triggered by fear about the future. The triggers for me fall into three categories or questions. First, am I going to be alone? Second, am I going to get an incurable disease? Third, am I going to be able to provide for the people who depend on me?
Part of the way that I have confronted the anxiety has been to work with a professional counselor. Several years ago, during a particularly anxious season, my counselor observed how prone I was to meditate on worst-case scenarios. Instead of coming up with all the reasons why my fears were irrational and would probably never come to be, she challenged me to assume that my fears were true and face them head-on. She challenged me to think about, and then speak out loud, what the long-term, worst-case scenario would be if I ended up alone, or sick, or could not provide for my loved ones. “Let’s just imagine for a minute that each and every one of your fears was real and actual. Then, let’s fast-forward a hundred years into the future. Where is the worst-case scenario going to take you, Scott? You preach the answer to this question to others all the time. Let’s pause for a moment and see if you can preach it to yourself.”
If I end up alone, the worst-case scenario is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and those who believe in him, though they die, yet shall they live. God has set a place for me at the wedding feast of Jesus, and I will be part of the church, his bride, forever. He puts the lonely into an eternal family. He will never leave or forsake me. The long-term, worst-case scenario is that I will never be alone, that I will always be known, loved, and received.
If I get a disease, the worst-case scenario is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and those who believe in him, though they die, yet shall they live. Just as Jesus’ body has been raised incorruptible and will no longer be subject to decay, so will mine be. He forgives all my sins and will heal all my diseases and crown me with love and compassion and redeem my life from every pit. The long-term, worst-case scenario is that I will be happy, healthy, strong, and whole forevermore.
If I cannot provide, the worst-case scenario is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and those who believe in him, though they die, yet shall they live. Jesus is rich. Everything in heaven and earth is his, and every square inch and every penny, nickel, dime, and dollar belong to him. But Jesus is more than rich; he is the true riches. Whether I live in poverty or wealth, I will always be able to say with the Puritan who was stripped to nothing but a piece of bread and a glass of water, “What? All of this and Jesus Christ, too?” The long-term, worst-case scenario is that I will inherit a wealth that will never spoil, perish, or fade—the wealth being Jesus himself. This inheritance will be not only for me but also for those depending on me who have anchored their own futures in his provision, not mine.
God’s Infinitely Real Promises
Is it any wonder that the most repeated command in the Bible is “Do not fear”?
God’s long-term promises are infinitely more real than any present, broken reality. It takes a God-given faith for us to see these things and let ourselves be impacted by them emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and otherwise. But with this God-given faith, we who are realistic about suffering can also live in hope because the broken reality in which we live is not the ultimate reality. Suffering, sorrow, and death will not be a part of life. All nightmares, imagined and real, will come to an end. Everything sad will come untrue. These words are trustworthy and true.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Thanks be to God.
Scott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides. You can connect with Scott at scottsauls.com or on Twitter at @scottsauls.
Taken from Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides copyright ©2015 by Scott Sauls. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.