by Bob Wheeler


Van Gogh: Weeping Woman

Jesus had now told the disciples that He would be betrayed, that He was going away, and that Peter would deny Him.  All of this no doubt would have deeply troubled the disciples, and Jesus was keenly aware of that; and so He turned His attention to them next.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1; NKJV).  At first this might have seemed incongruous.  How could their hearts not be troubled?  They had developed a close bond with Him.  That bond was about to be severed.  How could they not be disturbed by this?

The answer that Jesus gave is most interesting; and it has strong implications for all of us as we face life’s difficulties.  He says, “. . . you believe in God, believe also in Me” (or “Believe in God, believe also in Me” – the commentators are not sure which is the best translation).  The specific phrase that Jesus used here (or, at least, as John has it translated into the Greek) means to “trust in” or “put your trust upon.”  What we need to do when we are faced with trials or difficulties is to put our faith in God and in Christ – we must look to them for the solution to our problems.  In a time of trial it is only natural that we would be dismayed – we would be less than human if we were not.  But we must look beyond our immediate circumstances to see the hand of God in it.

But how does that solve the problem at hand?  We are still faced with the difficulty.  In this particular case Jesus mentions the implications of His immanent departure: “In My Father’s house are many mansions [or “dwelling places,” as it might better be translated – cf. NASV]; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you” (v. 2).  In other words, it was to their advantage that He was leaving, because He was going to prepare a place for them in heaven.  What He was holding out before them was the promise of a better life in the future – a better life for all eternity.  And He said, “if it were not so, I would have told you.”  He had consistently warned them of the difficulties and hardships that being His disciples would entail.  But if there had been no promise of a better future all the toil and sacrifice would have been in vain – there would have been no point to it.   And Jesus tells them that if that had been the case He would have told them, presumable so that they could have made the choice not to follow Him.  But the toil and sacrifice are worth it: a glorious future awaits us in heaven.

And then Jesus goes on to add another consideration: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am you may be also” (v. 3).  In other words, the separation would only be temporary.  He holds out before them the prospect of His Second Coming.  And the way He phrases it speaks of the love that He had for His disciples: “ . . .and receive you unto Myself.”  The purpose of the Second Coming will not be simply to achieve some external objective; it will be to restore the personal communion and fellowship that He had with them.

What Jesus has done, in effect, is to get His disciples to look beyond their immediate circumstances and see the larger picture.  Yes, what was about to happen in the short run would be painful indeed.  But that is not the whole story.  It is all to achieve a greater good; and a brighter, more glorious future awaits them as a result.

And do we not need to remind ourselves of the same thing?  When faced with trials and difficulties it is only natural that we would become discouraged and depressed.  But in such circumstances we need to force ourselves, as it were, to look at the bigger picture – to see the purpose and plan of God in all of this – to put our trust in Him.’

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who gave up a promising career in medicine to become a great expository preacher, pointed out that we must control our feelings and not let our feeling control us.  Granted, we cannot generate our feelings and emotions at will.  They are determined partly by our circumstances and partly by our individual temperaments.  Some individuals, Dr. Lloyd-Jones pointed out are naturally given to morbid introspection and depression.  He also pointed out that feelings have a legitimate place in a Christian’s heart.   But, he says, “we have our temperament, but there is nothing that is so wrong and un-Christian as to allow our temperament to rule us” (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, p. 112).  “Our feelings are always seeking to control us, and unless we realize this, they will undoubtedly do so . . .The mood seems to descend upon us.  We do not want it, but there it is.  Now the danger is to allow it to control and grip us . . . Our danger is to submit ourselves to our feelings and to allow them to dictate to us, to govern and to master us and to control the whole of our lives” (Ibid.).

So, what are we to do instead?  The first thing, Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, was to make sure that there is no obvious sin in our lives that would have caused the problem or difficulty in the first place.  To disobey God is to invite trouble.  In such cases we must firs remove the obvious cause of the problem, which was our sins and disobedience.  Only then can we find peace with God and others.

Secondly, he said, “Avoid the mistake of concentrating overmuch on your feelings” (p. 114), and he quoted in this connection Psalm 34:8: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good . . .,” and commented, “you will not know it, you will not feel it until you have tried it.”  The Bible is truth, he says, and truth is addressed to the mind . . . it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to the truth that the feelings follow” (p. 115).

And then Dr. Lloyd-Jones exhorted us to recognize the difference between rejoicing and feeling happy.  “You cannot make yourself happy, but you can make yourself rejoice, in the sense that you will always rejoice in the Lord (pp. 115-116), and he pointed to the example of the apostle Paul in II Cor. 4:8,9 (We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed . . ., etc.).  And then Dr. Lloyd-Jones concluded by saying, “You have to speak to yourself . . . Remind yourself of certain things.  Remind yourself of who you are and what you are” (p. 116).  When we are “down in the dumps” we need to take our eyes off of ourselves an fix them on Christ instead.

And so it was that Jesus exhorted His disciples to “believe also in Me,” and pointed out to them what He was about to accomplish on their behalf.  Trials and tribulations are a part of life; but a glorious future awaits us if we remain faithful to Christ.  Let us learn to rejoice in Him!