An unexpected divorce. An aging parent’s diagnosis. An unnerving wait in an emergency room. An untimely death of a friend.
Events like these can shake even the most stoic among us.
We detest conflict. We dislike difficult diagnoses. We despise death.
And we should detest, dislike, and despise disruptive life events because they remind us that life is not the way it should be.
Yet Jesus, on the eve of his crucifixion, told his disciples that though they would have trouble and tribulation in this world, they were to “Take heart! Have courage!” (John 16:33).
How could Jesus tell his disciples (or even himself, for that matter) to “take heart!”, knowing his disciples would abandon and leave him to face—alone—an illegal trial, torture, and a criminal’s death?
This summer I’ve been reading through the gospel of John and selecting verses for my 6-year-old and I to memorize together. My initial hope was just to introduce my child to more of Jesus. Yet amidst a difficult season of family surgeries and diagnoses, not only have those memory verses shown my child more of Jesus, but they’ve also had me hanging on to the hope found in Him.
Let’s look at a few hope-filled truths about Jesus located in the gospel of John:
1. Dark times cannot extinguish His light.
- “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5).
- “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Edwin Blum, in his exposition on John, explains that “Light in the Bible is a symbol of God and His holiness. Jesus is ‘the Light,’ not merely a light or another light among many lights. He is the only Light, ‘the true Light’ for the whole world. Coming to Christ for salvation results in a different kind of life. A believer will never walk in darkness, that is, he will not live in it. He does not remain in the realm of evil and ignorance for he has Christ as his Light and salvation.”
Have current circumstances left you feeling like you’re sitting in a pressure cooker? Compressed and hemmed in on all sides looking at a dim view of possibilities? Between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”? Situations may make you feel like there is no hope, no light, and no way out. But “take heart!”
Darkness cannot overcome His light. Darkness cannot separate you from Jesus. Darkness cannot and does not have the final word.
Hang on to that truth.
2. Diagnoses do not negate His plan.
- “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27–28).
- “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Dr. Charles R. Swindoll, in his explanation of John 10:27–30 in The Swindoll Study Bible, reminds us that as believers in Jesus, we are God’s sheep. We can be both confident and secure that we are in the Shepherd’s hands. He holds us fast. As believers our destiny is solid and firm.
A child’s diagnosis can feel like a punch in a parent’s gut, bringing with it worries about a son or daughter’s future. An aging parent’s diagnosis shakes a false reality that there will always be more time. In whichever circumstance you find yourself (possibly both), remember diagnoses do not negate Jesus’ plan.
By knowing and following Him, nothing can snatch us, or our loved ones, from the secure grip of the Savior.
Hang on to that truth.
3. Death does not have the final say.
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
- “Whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
- “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25).
That last verse, John 11:25, was spoken by Jesus to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. Lazarus was sick and died before Jesus decided to visit (John 11:1–14). Martha expressed her belief that had Jesus been there, her brother would not have died (John 11:21). But Jesus had waited on purpose. In doing so, God’s glory was displayed when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Many people then believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It is in this context that Jesus assures Martha that whoever lives and believes in Him will never die.
Edwin Blum explains, “A believer’s death issues in new life. In fact, the life of a believer is of such a quality that he will never die spiritually. He has eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 10:28), and the end of physical life is only a sleep for his body until the resurrection unto life. At death the spiritual part of a believer, his soul, goes to be with the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 5:6; Phil. 1:23).”
Death is unavoidable. Death is undeniable. Death is universal. But death is not final.
So how could Jesus tell his disciples (and himself) to “take heart!” on the eve of his crucifixion and death?
Because Jesus knew he would overcome death.
Correlating to these verses in John, the writer of Hebrews encourages believers to “run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1–2).
Our Savior hung on a cross, so we can hang on to hope. Our Savior defeated death, so we can hang on to life in the present while longing for eternity with Him.
In the unexpected, unnerving, and untimely trials and troubles of this life, remember these truths and “Take heart! Have courage!” fixing our eyes on Jesus and the joy set before us.
Hang on to the hope only Jesus can provide.
 Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in Bible Knowledge Commentary, edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, New Testament vol. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), p. 303.
 Charles R. Swindoll, “John,” in The Swindoll Study Bible. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017), p. 1296.
 Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in Bible Knowledge Commentary, edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, New Testament vol. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), p. 314.
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