May 10, 2020
Sure, Jesus, that is easy for you to say! “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
There is so much going on right now with us being under orders to stay home and stay safe that it is hard for our hearts not to be troubled. Our church community has been affected. Our jobs have been affected. The very way we go about doing and being have been affected. We wonder about when life is going to get back to normal. However, it will be quite some time before we even get back to a resemblance of what life was like at the beginning of March.
Amid this pandemic life continues. A couple of weeks ago my family heard the devastating news that a friend’s son in his late twenties had a major stroke and that the outcome did not look good. Therefore, his parents started talking with the organ donation people and were planning to say goodbye. However, they received the amazing news the next morning that he was responding to the nurses and has been improving nearly every day. This is as close to a miracle that I can point to, but he is not out of the woods yet and there will be a long recovery. Hearing these words of Jesus in times like this, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” once again seems ridiculous. While his parents’ hearts were troubled and broken at the initial news, they also know God mends our troubled hearts.
Reading and listening to Jesus’ words literally we think of that organ beating within our chest that gives us life. It goes much beyond that. Jesus is not simply talking about the heart beating within our chest, but our entire being. It involves our mind, character, and inner self. Jesus is talking about the affective center of our being.
In his words, Jesus is attempting to ease the anxiety of the disciples and let them know that it is going to be ok. This is the beginning of Jesus’ farewell discourse after Judas runs off to betray him, and he knows what is to come. They are worried about Jesus because they fear losing him. His response, “do not let your hearts be troubled.” Don’t be fooled into thinking Jesus’ heart was never troubled. Remember, he too was fully human and experienced many of the same things we do. In John’s gospel alone, there are three times when Jesus is referred to as being troubled in either heart, soul, or spirit. He is so troubled at the death of his friend Lazarus that he weeps (11:33). He is again troubled when he speaks to the disciples of his impending death (12:27). He is troubled for a third time when he informs the disciples that one among them will betray him (13:21).
All of these events revolve around death and separation. Naturally, if Jesus experienced these feelings when facing death head on, it is no wonder that we do too. When our prayers are not answered the way we would like them to be, we can put up a barrier between ourselves and God. When we are faced with fear and separation it keeps us from hearing the Good News of God. When all we see and hear is death and uncertainty, it can be easy to slip into those dark places where we forget the simple tasks of praying and giving thanks to God.
In this Easter season, an Easter season like none of us have ever lived before, it can be easy to forget about the death and resurrection of Christ that we remembered just a few weeks ago. In the face of his own death, Jesus was troubled. It is not unusual for us to be troubled with facing that same death. Yet, Jesus assures us, “do not let your hearts be troubled.”
Jesus knows that our hearts are going to be troubled. Especially in times of heart ache and suffering, it is guaranteed that we will in some way or another be troubled in body, mind, or spirit. Jesus speaks to us in certainty and hope just as he did to the disciples. That certainty and hope is full of love and compassion for God’s creation. It is God’s desire for us to leave all that worries and troubles our spirit at the foot of the cross to receive the love and grace of God. It is in the brokenness that we can meet God. And it is in the brokenness that God mends our troubled hearts. And this friends, is the Good News.
Thank you for such encouraging words. Just lovely.