“It’s only for a season.”
“This too shall pass.”
“It gets better! Trust me. I’ve been through it.”
I have both dropped these pearls of wisdom and been the recipient of these sweet little nuggets of knowledge over the years, especially since I’ve been a parent. And, in a way, they’re comforting.
Like when the three-year old decides to go to the bathroom around the toilet instead of in the toilet. (Note: prepositions matter. A lot.) Or when the five-year old kicks against the goads of parental authority for the fifteenth time that week. (Note: Having a Why-Machine in the house will drive you insane.) In instances like these, there is something powerful about talking with someone who has been through what you are going through, and who has lived to express their heartfelt condolences on your struggle.
But, there are certain things that are just too much. The things you don’t share on social media. The untold struggles that don’t extract these pearls of compassion because you keep them private. Such aching is too great to be soothed by a simple verbal balm.
For many of our clients, and for many of us, we know this pain well. Many of our immigrant clients come from countries where they faced brutal oppression and constant danger. Many of them lost loved ones and don’t know if they’ll ever see their families again. They were irreparably harmed, unceremoniously torn out of joint by people with power. What can be said to them? What can possibly be expressed to provide comfort and peace in the midst of such deep travail?
In John 16, Jesus tells his friends about how he will suffer and die. And then, he tells them that they will also suffer. This is a stiff tonic for his disciples, who hoped that Jesus would be the triumphant Messiah, in whose wake they would walk in a victory parade down the streets of Jerusalem. Instead, he says they will experience grief, betrayal, ostracism, religiously motivated violence, and death.
But then, he says this: “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus faced all of the things that his disciples would face. All of the betrayal. All of the “righteous” violence from a brutal regime. All of the shame of an unjust trial and ghastly execution. And yet.
We all know that we will face struggle and tribulation—some of it the banal struggles of simply existing, some of it the more radical struggles of striving for survival, most of it somewhere in-between. Jesus, the one who faced all of these and rose, in actual physical triumph over death, tells his disciples, and all who come after them, to take heart and to have peace because he actually overcame these things. This is not a trite cliché. This is the truth and promise of a loving God to His people in the midst of deep suffering.
So, may you have peace during your time of trial. May it be the peace that comes from knowing the One who has been through all that you experience, including death, and yet who lives.
Until justice and peace embrace,