‘Troubled’ is a word that’s been occupying my mind, and sometimes my emotions, over recent weeks. I reassure myself that Jesus knew what it was to be troubled, although not necessarily for the same reasons, or with the same response, as me.
He was deeply troubled at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:33), starkly confronted with the tragic consequences of Satan’s corruption of creation. Yet, while absorbing the intensity of his own grief, Jesus chose to refocus his emotion into prayerful indignation; indignation against the source of such evil. And we know what happened next.
When I am confronted with the work of the evil one does this make me indignant, or merely sad? Grief can be passive, but there is a time to become prayerfully incensed. If the hateful and hurtful impact of the evil around us does not provoke in us a sort of anger, then we have failed to comprehend God’s heart for justice, and the ultimate imperative of judgement.
Jesus was again ‘troubled’ in John 12:27, faced with the fearful approach of his own unspeakable suffering, made even worse by the hurt of betrayal (John 13:21). But while I tend run and hide from any such prospect, Jesus faces into it by choosing to focus not on himself but on his Father’s glory and what can be accomplished through the trauma (John 12: 28-31). I typically strive, and pray, to avoid as much pain and struggle as possible, and that is not wrong. The Master himself teaches us to pray: “…lead us not into testing times but deliver us from the evil one.” And yet there are things that can only be gained through “…the fellowship of sharing his sufferings.” (Phil 3:10) Spirit of Jesus, give me the discernment, and the courage, to distinguish.
And when this can sometimes seem hard, I am repeatedly reassured by what the ‘troubled’ Jesus goes on to say to his disciples. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” (Jn 14:1) And the reason lies in his unassailable promise that he will not abandon us as orphans. He will (and does) ‘come to us’, and he will (and does) ‘remain with us’, both in the uncertain here and now, and in the yet to come.
There will be times when we don’t understand; Mary his mother was troubled by what she couldn’t comprehend. (Lk 1:29) Sometimes we simply have to wait, holding our troubling uncertainties before Jesus, while soaking in his words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”