“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
Three years ago this September, I heard my mom repeat this verse when she was in the ICU after suffering a pulmonary aspiration coming out of surgery. She was in the third week of a hospital stay and the physicians were doing all they could to stave off the cancer that was advancing throughout her abdominal cavity. However, each day brought less promising news. Now, after the surgery that was supposed to give her some relief, she was in even more distress. While at her side, I asked her to recite her favorite Bible verse as a way to keep her mind off the current situation. She shook her head. Then, several hours later, she called me to her side and shared John 16:33. She was in trouble, in distress, yet still knew the God of peace.
I took this Bible verse as encouragement to get through my mom’s final weeks on this earth. We used it at her memorial service. I have also shared it with many people going through similar situations. It was a lifeline during her passing and I return to it to grasp the hope she gave me in her last weeks. It’s a safety net.
Now I’m starting to read it in a new light.
At the 2017 Global Leadership Summit, Gary Haugen spoke about International Justice Mission’s work to protect the most marginalized around the world. This work seemed so distant from my life. I’m on a college campus and not one for taking risks. Sitting in the dark auditorium waiting to go home, I started to tune out. Then he mentioned how fears often sideline dreams.
I felt a stab of conviction. I have swept aside many dreams, large and small, because of fears. Dreams of writing and of gathering groups have slowly withered as I’ve allowed fears to stop me from publishing or inviting people into ministry or initiating friendship. Fears drive me. Or, maybe I should say, keep me idling in neutral. Fears of not having an adequate IRA. Fears of my work being useless. Fears of rejection.
As Haugen continued speaking he shared how we can move forward because of Jesus’ promises. But, I asked myself, how can this ever work for me? I’ve heard the same thing over and over. It seems impossible.
Then he shared John 16:33. I cried.
He read this not merely as a verse of comfort. It was also a call to step out into the trouble around us because Jesus is present. Instead of creating places of comfort for ourselves, we are called to take courage and go. What I had been reading as a safety net I started to see as a call to have more faith in Jesus than fears.
In these years since her death, I’ve continued to mourn the loss of my mother. She is the one who encouraged me to get out, to not be sucked into a funnel of fear. Yet during these past years I have been using her loss as an excuse to not do many things and to create that place protected from fear.
Well, it turns out, the verse she shared is God’s call through her not to create a padded room, but to keep moving; to realize the trouble and fear in the world — and in me — and then go out anyway, because Jesus has overcome it.