“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33
This is one of Jesus’ many curious passages that can seem quite contradictory. In the verse, Jesus promises us peace (“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace”). But, He also (in the “same breath”!) promises us unavoidable, inevitable tribulation (“In the world ye shall have tribulation”).
How can this be so?? How can we have both? (Especially since most of us only want one of them, namely peace)
To grasp what Jesus is saying, we must examine the Biblical definitions of both peace and tribulation.
Tribulations may be defined as:
Difficulties in the physical realm due to battles in the spiritual realm:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” ~ Ephesians 6:12
Difficulties resulting from the creation being in a fallen state due to the consequences of the first sin and its perpetuation/propagation:
“Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam He said… cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee… In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground…” ~ Genesis 3:16-19a
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” ~ Romans 8:22-23
Given these truths, it is easy to grasp that tribulation is inevitable while we live here on Earth as physical beings. There will be cancer, there will be murder, there will be crashes, there will be losses and struggles of every kind, even if we ourselves live “perfect” lives.
Jesus also tells us:
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake…” ~ Matthew 10:22
Even if we are the best disciples we could ever be, tribulation will come our way because we serve Jesus Christ.
With this perspective, it is prudent that we change our attitudes from tribulation avoidance to tribulation expectation/preparation, because we know it is coming, no matter what we do.
Peace, as defined in the Bible, is not the absence of trials/tribulations (if it were, then Jesus would have contradicted Himself in our text). Rather, peace is living in harmony with God. Consider the following:
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” ~ John 14:26-28
As those verses indicate, the Peace of which Jesus speaks is the harmonious relationship between God and an individual that the indwelling presence of the Comforter enables. The Comforter uses the WORD of God to teach us who God is and how to obey Him, which thereby enables us to experience peace. (So we MUST read/study The Bible if we want to ever experience real peace!)
PEACE AND TRIBULATION: A “Symbiotic” Synthesis
Jesus speaks to us through Scripture—we have His Words and He is THE WORD (John 1:1-3)—so that we can have peace, i.e., live in harmony, live in obedience, to God in a world that is replete with unavoidable tribulations; like the ones we face every day.
But there is more. God knowing that we will face troubles in this world, wisely “leverages” tribulations to our benefit:
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” ~ Romans 5:3-5
We not only have Jesus words to give us peace in the midst of tribulations, we ALSO benefit from tribulations because in enduring them, we are drawn even closer to God, i.e., we have even MORE PEACE!!! Hallelujah!!!
And if drawing ever nearer God is our desire in life (and it should be), we can rejoice in the tribulations that face us because they help us to accomplish our goal!
As we face the tribulations that come our way, let us cling ever closer to our Lord and Saviour and in Him find perfect peace.
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” ~ Isaiah 26:3