We are living in uncertain times. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are shortages and there are rumors of more shortages to come. There are diseases and death and there are rumors of more diseases and more death to come. There are uprisings and unrest and there are rumors of more uprisings and more unrest to come. It is times like these that strike fear into the hearts of men and women around the globe. Although, if we look back through history, we see that every era in human history has been an “uncertain time” for those living in it and through it at the time. Life is uncertain because the outcome is unknown to us, we don’t know what the future will bring.
Of course, if we’ve read the end of the Book, (the book being the Bible and the last chapter being Revelation), then we do know how things turn out. But does this make what we are living through at present any easier to bear or to navigate? any less painful or less terrifying? I don’t think so. We are still witnesses to the eternal struggle between good and evil being played out every day on the human stage. We are the proverbial captive audience, with a front row seat. Actually though, we are more than witnesses. We are also participants. Whether we like it or not, we are engaged for better or for worse, in our era of history, in this human drama we call life.
So does knowing how it ends make a difference to me and to you in our daily lives? Does knowing how it ends give me hope? Does it give me a reason not to give up when it looks to me as though evil is winning and will prevail? John 16:33 gives us a spoiler alert when Jesus says this to His disciples,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Well, I have and continue to experience that “trouble” Jesus talked about, every day, some days more than others. I’m still waiting for the “overcoming” part to take place. I guess we all are. My heart is particularly heavy today as I write this, heavy with grief for people, for parents, for families that I have never met and do not know. I am sad and angry for a community not my own, but it could just as easily be my own community, and it was, not all that long ago. Nothing separates us but distance. However, evil knows no boundaries – evil is everywhere with us, hidden in the human heart, waiting to reveal itself.
Already grieving, as I was, for other families in a different community, this new assault coming so soon, seems way too much for already frayed and frazzled human hearts to bear. Where is the hope in this overwhelming despair? Where is the light in this darkness? The Israelites wondered the same thing centuries before Jesus was born and Isaiah had these words of hope for them –
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. . . . Instead of their shame My people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; . . . and everlasting joy will be theirs. For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In My faithfulness I will reward them . . . so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” (Isaiah 61:1-11)
That all sounds good, I am ready for everlasting joy and for righteousness and praise to spring up. I am ready for what it says in Isaiah 11:4-5,
“He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist.”
I am ready for the wicked to be wiped out. Romans 12:21 tells me – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I want to believe that good is overcoming evil, but right now it doesn’t seem like that is happening. It looks like evil is winning or at least succeeding in gaining the upper hand at the moment. You and I are living in that moment, and it is hard and it feels hopeless. I wonder if that’s how the disciples felt after Jesus’s crucifixion? They had left everything to follow Jesus and now He was lying in a dark tomb. It was over for them. They had put their hope in Jesus and now He was dead and buried.
It must have seemed to Jesus’s followers that evil had won. The kingdom He had promised them, was not going to come after all. That’s what they thought. They didn’t know those three dark days were not the end. They didn’t know a new beginning was on the way, so close, if they could just hang on. They didn’t know. How could they? Could they be expected to hope based not on what they saw but on what they couldn’t see but had been promised? Or did they even remember any of Jesus’s promises and predictions during those three dark days following His crucifixion? Did they recall Jesus saying to them –
“Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19)
You and I have the advantage of knowing how that part of the story turns out because we live on this side of the empty tomb. But the disciples didn’t have our historical perspective. During those days, which must have seemed so long, as time stood still while they mourned, they couldn’t know that those dark days would end abruptly with an empty tomb and a risen Savior. They couldn’t imagine that hope and joy would replace their despair and grief. To them, their situation appeared hopeless during the three dark days Jesus laid in the tomb.
Then Jesus’s resurrection changed everything. When the disciples saw their risen Savior, their mourning turned into rejoicing and they had hope once again. They would need that hope to sustain them in the days to come. Jesus ascended into heaven with a promise to return one day and a charge to them to share the Gospel and make disciples of all men. Today, like the disciples, we are living in those days between Jesus’s resurrection and His return.
We have every reason to hope because we know how the story ends. We didn’t have to endure those three darkest days with the disciples, but our own days can seem pretty dark when all around us evil seems to be prevailing and there seems to be no end to the suffering evil deeds cause. However, we have the hope of Jesus’s return to sustain us during our darkest days. We can look forward to the time described in Revelation 21 in these words,
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
This is the hope that holds me fast during dark days when it looks like evil has the upper hand, when it looks like evil has won, which is how it looked to the disciples during those three darkest days in human history. They were without hope. But you and I are not without hope, we know how the story ends. We know that God is still in the mountain moving, miracle making business and one day He will set all things right. We have His promise on that. We have this hope as an anchor for our souls when darkness surrounds and we are tempted to believe the lie that it is over and evil has won. But hope does not believe the lie! The three darkest days are over – ended with a resurrection bringing eternal life. Hope in my living Lord will carry me through all the dark days while the battle rages. The battle is the Lord’s and so is the victory.
“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” (Isaiah 45:2)
“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13)
“You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12)
sincerely, Grace Day