A Cheerful Heart
In the world you will have tribulation. But, take heart; I have overcome the world.
~ John 16:33
Our faith is tested in times of trouble. It might be easy enough to put on the mental clothing of a Christian when all is well: when we feel good and our health is robust, when we have plenty of money, when our loved ones are happy. But how do we react when we discover we have a serious, painful, possibly fatal illness? When a doctor tells us we are going blind? When our pension is wiped out in some sort of financial meltdown or securities fraud?
I have seen people repudiate Christ when a husband or wife or child dies. This is, truly, a tragedy, and one which is incomprehensible to me. How can one lose faith during a time of tribulation? It is like taking off a life jacket when we find out our ship is sinking. It is like cancelling our health insurance, when we learn we are seriously ill.
Looking at it from one perspective, the reason we spend so much time in prayer and good works, the reason we learn to love Christ, is that He is the only answer to life’s worst afflictions. Our only hope to overcome death, and pain, and loss, is our hope in Christ. We have faith that He can and will deliver on His promise: eternal life spent in the joy of knowing God, face to face.
Our faith is tested by life in this world. If we are saved, our love for Christ will abide through every sort of trouble. Our faith in God will remain steadfast, no matter the temptation to blame Him for our pains. But here is the kicker: if we know Christ and our faith is strong, we will not suffer so much.
Christ is the only antidote for death. He is our doctor who has promised to return and “cure” us, when our body inevitably sickens and dies. But there is an extra benefit: The cheerful heart that we get from our faith, the joy that comes from life in the Spirit, remediates our suffering even when it is occurring. Through Christ, we not only escape the pain of death; we also escape much of the pain of dying!
“Come unto me,” He urges, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
What do we tell a child who has the measles or the flu, and cannot go out and play? “You'll feel better in no time, I promise.” The greatest comfort we can have, if we are ill, is to know that we will feel better soon. The pain is temporary. And this is exactly what Christ promises us. “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” he urges us.
And if our faith is strong . . . it works! We feel better, knowing that our pain will end in perfect joy. How much easier it is, to spend the night in a hard, cold place, if we know that we will be released in the morning to a world of warmth and comfort. And that is exactly the truth that Christ tells us.
So we need never give in to pain, to sorrow, to depression. No matter how much it hurts today, it will be gone tomorrow. We can adopt our future joy into our lives today.
Lord, let me always be cheerful, for I know that any trouble I encounter in life is short-lived. Let me look to the reality of heaven, even when my temporary circumstances on earth are difficult. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer