One thing the Bible is not is utopist about life in this world. It gets unfairly criticized for encouraging a pessimism that makes people passive about doing anything to improve things; people who are “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.”
Of course, that’s a lot of hogwash. History has shown that those who have a hope of heaven are far more likely than their agnostic neighbors to willingly make the personal sacrifices necessary to seriously address the horrors and hopelessness in the world.
And the Bible doesn’t gloss over the horrors. Reading the whole Bible through, we wince a lot. And it is pretty frank about what we can expect during our sojourn on earth:
So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:8)
There Will Be Darkness
When Jesus walked the earth he was not a bouncy, positive-thinker. He was “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). And he promised his followers, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
Life is hard. The days of darkness will be many. And you know what? That’s hopeful.
When we find ourselves experiencing “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Corinthians 12:10), something strange isn’t happening to us (1 Peter 4:12). It is what we must expect living in a creation subjected to futility (Romans 8:20).
But it was subjected to futility in hope — hope “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). And yes there is deep groaning as we wait for the completion of our redemption (Romans 8:22–23). But it is a hope-infused groaning, full of anticipation for what is coming.
Remember What He Said
It’s this Spirit-empowered dynamic in the soul that allows us to be both “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). We expect sorrow from the world and redemption from our Savior, who will work even our sorrows for ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
So in your days of darkness, Jesus understands (Hebrews 4:15) and wants you to take heart:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
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