Text: John 16:1-33, Isaiah 32:14-18, Romans 8:12-17
Most mornings, I go to a local coffee shop in East Nashville where I order my two-dollar coffee, sit in a corner, and try to bang out a few words on my machine. They know my name here. They welcome me in the door, ask how my writing is going, and never give me the slant-eye when my coffee goes cold, while I continue to suck electricity from their walls and Wi-Fi out of their air. Here, it’s easy to pretend that life is all lattes and progress.
But the reality is, everyone around me is experiencing their own pain. The girl who stops by my table just had a miscarriage. The grey-haired man eating his oatmeal while reading the paper just lost his wife last year. The exhausted, lonely mother at the register keeps trying to order her coffee, but stops to run out the door after her two-year-old escape artist. The newspaper sitting next to me screams its headlines of tragedy: War Rages On! Politicians Still Lie! Poverty Eats Away at the Hungry!
We’re all acquainted with our own brand of heartache. It’s enough to bring you to the same conclusion as Solomon in Ecclesiastes: “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
This view of suffering is the fare the world offers up to us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The world tells us that if we’re hurting, it’s up to us to change our circumstances so we won’t hurt anymore. We’re to follow our heart, chase our dreams, and forsake everything—even our responsibilities, family, and God— in order to secure our own happiness in the world. But in the midst of all that noise, Jesus provides a much different view of suffering.
With some of His last words to His disciples, Jesus predicted that trouble was coming. He said they would be kicked out of the temple—losing the social center of their lives (Luke 21:5-6). They would be ostracized, killed, and separated from one another. But most importantly, He told them to expect these things, to not be surprised when they happened. Grief would be a part of their experience here on earth, just as it’s a part of ours.
But Jesus doesn’t leave us in our sorrow. He promises to turn our grief into joy (John 16:20). He tells us we’re to have courage because He’s already conquered the evil in this world (John 16:33)—and, in fact, He’s making us a new one (Isaiah 65:17).
The world tells us to break free from grief because our time here is limited. Jesus invites us to welcome our grief as the precursor to eternity. In that way, our pain is not a state of being that needs to be avoided; it is an access point to the throne of God.
Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.