This Is Not Heaven
By Dot Bowen
“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 16:33 (NIV)
I am reminded every day we do not live in heaven. Recently, my precious friend, Brenda Tuminello, went to be with Jesus after battling cancer seven times. My dear friend, Lynne Blanton, was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. My sister continues to fight cancer, and her husband fights kidney disease. Even my son’s dog has cancer! I turn on the nightly news and hear of shootings in schools along with one story after another of some type of evil throughout the world. One thing is certain— this is not heaven! I have yet to sit and talk with a friend without my heart aching for the return of Christ. How do we face each day without feeling hopeless? How can we continue to live above the circumstances when the events of daily life seem to point to despair? I do not mean to paint a picture that all of life is depressing. Of course, I share plenty of laughter with my friends and family. My heart leaps out of my chest as I enjoy God’s continued blessings upon my life and the lives of the people I love. But even during the laughter, there’s an awareness of the possibility that things can change with one phone call or one doctor’s visit.
As a follower of Christ, it can be difficult to marry Jesus’ words “to be of good cheer” to “in this world you will have trouble!” It is much easier to shout “Amen” to the reality of having tribulation in this world and can be much more difficult to find reason to be of good cheer! How do we keep the faith and still live realistically? The root word in realistic is real. We cannot look at the battles we are fighting and pretend we are not in a battle. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous at the moment he headed into battle to take the land God had given to His people. If he had not been headed into battle there would have been no need to be strong or courageous. Obviously, God was aware of Joshua’s battles and equipped him to face the battle through His promise and His presence. God promised Joshua and Moses that He would be with them as they went from slavery to freedom, but He also told them they would have a battle to fight as they journeyed.
The foundation to being strong and courageous in our daily battles is to know God is with us. As Jesus prepared to leave earth, He told the disciples the Holy Spirit would come and dwell within them, and they would never face their battles alone. Today, we can face our battles, and we can stand strong and courageous because Jesus will never leave or forsake us. He promised we would face battles, but He also promised His presence in the midst of the battles. The truth is we are not alone in our battles despite feeling we fight our battles alone.
Remember, we follow Christ, and Christ faced His greatest battle on earth as He set His face toward Jerusalem and went to the cross. Jesus came to the world for this battle, faced it directly, and was forsaken by God. We will face trials, disappointments, circumstances and dysfunctional people in this world. However, we do not face them alone! We face each day with Jesus—whether it holds a battle or a victory. He understands the pain of being forsaken, and He promises not to forsake us. We can be strong and courageous in Christ! Jesus left us here on earth with the promise He has fought our battles, and through Him, we win! Jesus left us here on earth to live within the battle lines. He fights our battles, and through Him, we can stand strong and courageous because we do not fight alone.
Further Reading John 16:17-33; Joshua 1:1-7; Luke 9:51-53; Hebrews 13:5