The peace that we enjoy is not in a perfect set of circumstances. We are tempted to think that it is. That is to say, if we can just sort those circumstances out -a little more money in the bank, a better health report, a soothing of those tricky relational squabbles- then we can be at peace.
And yet here Jesus promises something quite different.
In fact, in the context of this verse, it would seem to be almost the exact opposite. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. It hardly seems good news at this point! It seems rather like gritty realism, in the context of how many earth-dwellers live.
And somehow that encourages me. This verse simply disallows any fantasy about perfect health, perfect bank balance and perfect teeth! No, quite to the contrary, trials and sorrows will abound.
Jesus is anticipating his departure. His closest friends are burdened with the sorrow of that announcement. They still don’t understand tihe ins and outs of it. Even the promise of the Holy Spirit seems to make little headway against the sheer weight of this trial, this sorrow.
And so it is with us. So often we experience circumstances that seem -frankly- unbearable. Somehow we expect that being a Christian should exempt us from this. This verse says not.
But it does say something more. Two things in fact. The first is there at the end of the passage. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The second is at the beginning of the verse: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.”
Jesus makes two gigantic claims. The first is that of “overcoming the world,” challenging and defeating every force of darkness, exposing wickedness and taking it upon Himself and rising from it in resurrection. The second is that we can experience peace in Him.
“You may have peace in me.”
Of course, the two claims run together. Because of His victory, I can know peace.
I’m so glad that the Bible doesn’t sugarcoat our difficulties in life. Many trials, many sorrows…. but wonderful overcoming, wonderful peace.