John 16.33: “Be of Good Cheer”

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. ~ John 16.33

On The American Conservative this morning, I read an excellent post by Rod Dreher, “The End of Our Time.” Essentially, Dreher suggests when we look at the widespread cultural upheavals, from the mass migration out of Syria to the terror in Paris, we’re looking at the end of a stable Western civilization, brought down (in part) by Westerners’ persistent effort to find life’s purpose in pleasing themselves.

While Dreher contemplates the wreck of the West through the hope of his Christian faith, he does acknowledge that the toppling of Western culture “will be painful, violent, unpredictable, and long-lasting”. And it was this that stuck out to me this morning, in light of my reading in John.

If Dreher is right, the world we know is ending.

But then, the world we know is always ending, and there is always fear and discomfort.

A sudden medical problem, a death in the family, a job loss, and suddenly the world we knew has ended. Suddenly, we’re adrift in a new and unfamiliar one, struggling to find our way.

Or we’re confronted by larger cultural changes. Who knows what changes will follow as our cities and communities accept refugees? Accepting the refugees may well be the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean there will not be changes – deep, uncomfortable, even scary ones.

We face, personally and culturally, a world that is falling apart.

And what strikes me about the passage in John is that this is exactly the world the disciples faced. They, when Jesus speaks to them here, are about to lose their Lord and Savior. They will witness, over the upcoming forty years, increasing Roman brutality against their people and the destruction of the Jewish way of life. They will be killed for their faith.

But when Jesus talks to the disciples, who faced then the same things we face now, he is reassuring.

“You will have tribulation,” He says. There is no escaping it. To some degree, solving the so-called “problem of pain” is beside the point; in this world, pain just is. 

But Jesus has more to say: “In Me,” he says, “You will have peace.”

“Be of good cheer,” He says. “I have overcome the world.”

Jesus has spent the whole of the Gospel of John establishing His identity: He is the bread of life, the fountain of life, the light of the world. Here begins the new life. 

And in this promise of new life, we can find hope. This world may hurt. This world may end.

But Jesus does not end, and in Him, in His glory, we find the peace and hope we need to be comforted in dark times.

I have been concerned with the news about Paris and Syria this week. I have been saddened to hear of the death of two great literature scholars at Wheaton College this last week, one of whom I met personally a year or so back. I have been dealing with ongoing shoulder pain.

But I have been comforted to remember that whatever troubles are around me, in Jesus there is life and hope.

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