“You believe at last!” Jesus answered. But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:31-33
I believe in the Lord – not just that he exist – but that he died bearing all the sins of the world past, present and future. I believe that by believing that and asking his death to count for my sins and asking his resurrected life to become my own, that Jesus becomes the Lord and my very life rather than Satan or myself. This is my faith. This I believe.
Yet, like my brothers, the disciples, how often do I leave Jesus alone and go back to my old home and old haunts. I paint pictures of Egypt and leave out what it lacks (see Sara Grove’s song). “The time is coming and has come”, Jesus says-and so it goes with me. I am scattered by these fears and pains and I run. As Sara adds, it not about losing faith or trust – it just about being comfortable. That old home is so known and comfortable even though it is meaningless and futile. It can no longer fulfill me but it is so easy to escape to.
In 2000, I took a 10 day journey through the back country of Philmont Scout Reservation with my oldest son, Justin, and a group of Boy Scouts and adult leaders. We had to carry everything we needed for the entire journey on our backs. Our trek led us away from base camp to the furthest point away before bringing us back. For us the furthest point away was climbing to the second highest mountain in Philmont, Mt. Philips, and staying the night. The climb was well above the water line so we would have no access to water from the base camp the day we started until after the descent the next day.
As a result, we split gear from one of the adults, my friend, Gary, and he carried half his gear plus 5 gallons of water on his back. It was a very difficult thing for him as he slowly paced up the mountain because he had had knee issues before. He slowly kept going at an even pace even when the scouts would sprint faster ahead then rest from exhaustion. It was like the tortoise and the hare all the way up. The air was so thin at the top of the mountain that you would wake up from sleep feeling as if you were suffocating. It was a difficult part of our trek.
Gary and I found a great analogy to our half-hearted walk with Christ in that place. Being at the half way point, any accident we would have encountered – it would take just as long to press forward as to go back. There was no escaping the difficulty of the journey. Gary kept pressing on because there was no option. But in our Christian adventure, we can walk in the spirit one minute, but when we feel overwhelmed by that, we can turn our minds and hearts from him the next and simply return to the comfort of the couch, the TV and the tangible.
We may leave Jesus alone, but he is not alone – his Father is with him. We may feel we are alone and long for home, but we are not – our Father is with us. We need to learn to weep in those moments as men longing for our real home as Rich Mullins shares in his wonderful song, If I Stand. Sara gets to this idea too – “The place I had wasn’t perfect But I had found a way to live It wasn’t milk or honey But then neither is this”. We think that part of our longing for comfort is the desire to get back to what we know – but when we examine it, we find “the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I”ve learned” and that our real longing is to fully know him who we can only see dimly now.
Recognizing that we are our weeping is a longing for our heavenly home is helpful. It isn’t so much that we want those old, familiar death clothes, that we want to return. It is that we long to see Him face-to-face. Proverbs 13:12 clarifies this, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Don’t we really long for the tree of life? Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Also, we are longing to be free from sin and this longing that pulls us back and on that day, our flesh and the world and God’s adversaries will no longer plague us. It is helpful to identify our longing, not for the comfort of what was behind but for the glory that is before us so we can set our minds in that direction. Phil 4:8 “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” Galatians 5:5
Perhaps the most fascinating thing Jesus says to the disciples in this passage is, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” If we were telling our friends that they were going to abandon us in our time of need, it would be likely that they would feel shame, incredulousness, or maybe fear. Our master has caught us in our selfishness and accused us of betrayal. But Jesus tells them that he is sharing this with them that they may have peace. He says that peace is in Him.
When we get scared or overwhelmed and we look back to Egypt and to our comfortable living room couch and we scatter and leave Jesus alone, we may find a temporary comfort but we do not find what we are longing for. And we also find, amidst our comfort-seeking distractions, a voice of guilt and accusation. This voice that says, “See! That adventure toward Jesus is really not for you. You were wise to save yourself from that discomfort.” But the truth is we’ve buried our head in our comforts but that does not make our troubles go away. Jesus told the disciples to remember that, “in me you may have peace”, and he then tells them, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”.
We turn back to our comforts, we find that they do not fit us anymore and we find our adversaries ready to plague us. Shortly, we find that we long for peace more than comfort and we race back into the arms of our Savior, the source of peace and life. We are discovering our dependence on him. We cannot make our world work or find what we need – but Jesus, and Jesus alone, has overcome the world.
In another place in the Gospel of John (6:67-69), many disciples of Jesus decide to leave him and Jesus asks the twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” and Peter answers him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”