Turning on the news these days takes a strong constitution. In large swaths of the country, raging floods have overtaken areas recently shrouded in deep drought and vicious forest fires. Today, hundreds of American children struggle to breath as they battle a strange virus, while on the African continent, the Ebola virus rages out of control without an effective cure or strategy in place to contain its spread. Meanwhile ISIS and Boko Haram are seizing territory and declaring ‘statehood’ within the borders of sovereign countries in the Middle East and Africa.
From appearances, the world is in a state of convoluted chaos. There are many problems, but seemingly few effective or lasting solutions. Was this state of affairs what Jesus referenced when he said “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”? John 16:33
What does Jesus see and know about trials, sorrows and how to overcome them that seems so obscure to us? When Jesus referenced the world, he wasn’t talking about the physical world of nature, rather he was referring to the world systems; the principalities, powers and authorities that govern the way the physical world behaves and engages with life. World systems are the organizing mechanics which underly education, government, politics, healthcare, commerce, economics, religion and warfare. They influence thoughts, ideas and perceptions and because of their pervasiveness and powerful imagery, impact every single human being on the planet.
While systems have their place in organization and governance, they are not the answer to predicaments; that is solutions to situations which completely defy the norms and principles of what is thought to be the established order. It is in the face of predicaments such as pandemics, terrorism and entrenched poverty that we are faced with the limitations of fake solutions; answers which lack the power and wisdom to change and transform anything for long, if at all. We are faced with the recognition that our arsenal of weapons to defeat horrific problems which attack without mercy is very limited. Dread, fear and panic are instinctive responses.
As Christians, our Peace is embodied in a person. Jesus statement in John 16:33 reminds us that he is the overcoming power. Not an idea, principle, strategy, dogma or doctrine. To obtain this peace, we must be connected to him in the only world which is profoundly real, the world of spirit. The Spirit of Peace invites us to step out of the hypnotizing drama churning throughout the world system and seek respite for our troubled hearts.
Trouble doesn’t just visit the word stage, it’s an intruder which visits all of us personally and persuasively. Jesus frankly acknowledges the inevitability of trouble and points us to the real solution. Good cheer strengthens our hearts and calms our spirits so we have the strength to face issues without the additional burden of undue stress, anxiety and fear. Cheer embodies comfort, encouragement and hope as well as joy and happiness. Ultimately, Jesus points us to the fact that he has overcome all the situations that create trauma to the soul and body here on earth and reminds us that the peace in him and through him, is what we must and can connect to if we hope to live an overcoming life.