In this world, you will have trouble…
There will be trouble.
There will be sorrow.
I sit one row back as my heart grows heavy. Prayer request after sorrowful request for those needing a special touch are called for. Requested for those needing a miracle. I turn to speak with a man behind me and his head falls to his chest as we converse, tears close to the surface. He isn’t able to finish his thought; mid-sentence, his grandson steps in to finish the story where he left off. The grandfather’s cherished grand-daughter and the young man’s sister: she is dying. “It will probably be today” the younger of the two men says simply. I am at a loss for the right words to say, offering only what I have to give: my sorrow. A young sister, a granddaughter: dying, even as we speak. She chokes and fights for life while I dispassionately sing the choruses about joy and living. Truly her short days on this earth have not been easy. She has never run or walked or played. She has missed those taken-for-granted moments, trading them in for a life of long-term care. It is too close for comfort- this story, and I fight back emotions.
We just buried my aunt not even two weeks ago.
As I turn back around in my seat, the stark reality of another struggling family hits me square in the gut: a local family from the next community over has lost a home. It burned down Friday night- the cause, an electrical fire: they escaped with only their lives and the clothes on their backs. The weight of these and the many other accounts of adversity that I am hearing begin to cover me in grief: a friend whose has been inflicted with a near-detached retina, who might not regain her eyesight back even within the year. Another friend who put her knee out. Church friends who feel more like family: hospitalized, bed-ridden. Cancer and various other long- term illness the cause. My own back and shoulders ache with tension.
I can’t bear all this sorrow.
And my mind wanders to my own immediate family coming to terms with the death of our only aunt on my mother’s side, a woman who had been bed-ridden for thirty-one years. The death of her baby: our only cousin from that side of the family- a baby taken before his time. Jesse Robert Maclean. And the questions still unanswered burn within me: why. Why her? Why him? Why them? Why us?
Why all this sorrow?
In this world, we are promised many things.
There will be joy.
I pull together a meal: pork-chops with seasoning, rice laced with chicken broth. Corn, fresh garden salad, rolls and angel food cake topped with cherry conserves. My sweet friend has just given birth to her second child: a darling baby boy. I hold him against my shoulder and breathe in the sweet fragrance of his baby smell, while his mama and I talk. He is a joy- a precious gift to cherish and gaze at in awe-struck wonder. I take in the ease with which his mother tenderly nurses her child and we both revel in the moment. The joy and the wonder of it all.
The absolute miracle.
Later, my own family of six head down to my in-law’s sprawling property, grass growing greener by the day. We are here for an impromptu birthday party, of sorts. Cats lying lazily on the back porch greet us while hot spring sun shines brightly overhead. We will celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday with a still-warm-from-the-oven banana chocolate chip cake topped with whipped chocolate icing. Cake, ice-cream and candles- can afternoon snack get any better than this? She beams with pride as the grandchildren envelope her to help blow out the dwindling candles, wax dripping down onto the icing below. There is easy banter and laughter. This home is filled with love and joy. Filled with happiness.
For in this world, there will be joy. There will be celebration. Pleasure, delight, elation.
But we are promised this surety as well: there will also be sorrow. It’s a promise.
I wonder at this prospect. This reality. There will be trouble. There always has been and there always will be.
There will be pain. There will be suffering. There will be disease. There will be hardship. There will be persecution. There will be loss. There will be adversity. There will be poverty. There will be destitution. There will be difficulty. There will be obstacles.
There will be death.
We stand over the grave and I try to process my feelings and sadness. A body is buried. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. This is the final resting place for her, indeed for all of us: a grave.
When we as family leave the graveside, after singing “What a Day It Will Be”, the caretakers will cover over that coffin with dirt. It will be lowered six feet under. And the shell that she was will be buried underneath the soil and grass. A tombstone remaining to commemorate her life and death. The sorrow and mourning will also remain as the reality of this closing chapter of a mortal life that is now over. The sadness and sorrow lingering long after that final mound of dirt has been patted down.
The thought of this all is so very troubling. So difficult to deal with.
For the troubles of this world remind those of us who still remain, those of us who remember: that death is waiting in the wings. It lurks in the shadows for everyone of us. It is coming.
We will have trouble.
And with this reality as our surest promise, I wonder still at the hope one can garner so as to carry on. So as to continue. So as to press forward and live, in spite of it all.
How do we find that hope to face trouble in this world? To face pain and suffering?
How then shall we now live?
In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, there is One who has overcome the troubles of this world.
There is One who is over trouble. Who is over heartache. Who walks through adversity with those who call His name. There is One who has crushed Death underneath His feet with the words, “It is finished.” There is One who has gone on before us to prepare the Way.
And He has not forgotten us. He has not left us alone.
He is God with Us: Immanuel.
He knows our deepest longing, our darkest fears. He whispers into our soul that He is near. He reaches out, extends His love and peace and hope to fragile souls like mine in our greatest moments of need.
And He has overcome.
It’s a surety, a promise. There will be trouble, but His Word is true. He has overcome.
Prevailing over trouble and suffering and disease and hardship and persecution and loss and adversity and poverty and destitution and difficulty and all other obstacles this world has ever known.
He has triumphed over death.
So we take heart. In this world there will be trouble. We will endure much hardship, much suffering. We will suffer, forging forward through this time of trouble. But in a little while, we will be with the Father- can’t you see Him smiling!
He waits for us with arms outstretched. He encourages and calls out to us in the brutal harsh reality of the here and now. And one day when this life is over, He will welcome us home.
Where He will remind us of that other precious promise, that hope and joy: that He was always with us. Even through the storm.
Even in the distressing trouble that was our painful reality.
He was always there- and forever, He always will be.
He has overcome. And one day, we will too.
It’s a promise.