John 16:33 I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world! (GNT – Good News Translation)
When I read this verse, it doesn’t necessarily encourage me that Jesus told His disciples that suffering is inevitable, and He even had to tell them to be brave. But it’s what comes next that should encourage me.
“I have defeated the world!” In my mind’s eye I can see Jesus say these words with a smile on His face.
Now, I realize that ultimately I will live without strife when I get to heaven, but Jesus says that He has already defeated the world. So why do I struggle so often here on earth with my questions about what is happening in my life? Why do we have the never-ending issues with a mentally ill person in our home?
Maybe the better question to ask would be, “Why have we been given the gift of suffering?”
Yes, you heard me right – the gift of suffering. You see, even the Apostle Paul said that suffering is a good thing. He said in Romans 5:3-4, “And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness.”
Paul endured much more than I have ever had to go through. Because of his suffering, he had a depth of understanding of God’s grace that he could never have otherwise known. Because of his suffering, his faith grew stronger. Because of his suffering, Paul realized that Jesus was the sum total of his strength.
So when I think about Christ defeating this world, it doesn’t mean that He makes everything perfect and that I will never have any problems. What it does mean is that He has gifted me with the ability to not only survive suffering, but to thrive in spite of it.
And I think it also means that He loves me enough to allow whatever I need to become more Christ-like.