If you’re going through hell, keep on going.
I am a classic over-stater of a situation. Case in point: I hate sleeping in socks. My feet get all hot and sweaty. The sock gets all twisted and crooked. And someone testify with me, there are very few things in life as uncomfortable as a twisted sock while your trying to find your comfort zone. Then based on my discomfort, I will make some incredible overture like “oh that must be what Hell is like.”
In truth Jesus never describes Hell as twisted socks…continual weeping and gnashing of teeth yes, off centered hosiery, no. Yet, we (maybe just I) make comparisons of our discomfort to eternal punishment.
While I want mama to rest assured, I am not headed to Hell, I do think we face some “hells on earth”.
Jesus look dead in the eye of the 12 with dagger like statements of “take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus always with the key literary foreshadowing was pointing toward his eventual journey toward his Hell on earth. Jesus, beaten and bloodied, exhausted and worn would be forced to drag and pull his own device of death to the hill of the skull. Where those same hands that carried the cross would be nailed to same board.
(And I complain about socks.)
While most likely most of us will never endure a cross, we do endure hell on earth. The words of Jesus penned in the red across the pages promise provision and protection but often in the face of trial and trouble. He said this to his closest friends on earth:
“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
Seven little words that sometimes feel much bigger than life itself…”you will have trouble.”
“Um, thank you Jesus.”
Truth is hell on earth will happen. Hurt will come. Despair will be delivered. Grief will be well worn like a familiar tattered hoodie. It is certain.
For whatever reason we think coming to faith in Jesus exempts us from heartbreak. But in fact, hurt still happens even to Jesus loving, church going, bible believing, filled with the Holy Spirit followers of Jesus. The hell on earth happens.
Sandwiched around the certainty of hell on earth is one reminder and one promise.
The reminder: Jesus is the giver of peace not the hurt.
The context of this passage of scripture is Jesus unpacking his plans for the future. It is a far cry from the social and political overtaking of the kingdom his disciples anticipated. It was an announcement of his departure. It was a save the date for his death.
It was as if the first nail was driven into the heart of his friends. Hurt, misunderstanding, uncertainty, confusion, I imagine to be what flooded the followers of the Messiah. I am sure Andrew or Matthew chased thoughts of “it is not supposed to go this way.”
In that moment, it seems like the proclamation of the plan is the very thing that steals the peace of the disciples. And Jesus, as only Jesus does, reminds them that he is giving them a glimpse of what is ahead not to create fear, but to give them peace.
The paradox of life and seemingly the message of the Passion is that going through Hell leads to peace. The cross of his suffering is what is our peace. He in a literally sense was pierced for our peace.
The reminder is he is the Prince of Peace even in the center of our hell on earth.
The promise: he has already overcome this world.
Hell on earth sucks. It is miserable, painful, and devastating at times. We walk through it with a belief head-shaking of “this is not what I signed up for.”
As hard as it may be and so often it seems nearly impossible to believe he has already overcome your hell. It was nailed the cross, it is overcome in the scars found in his hands and his side. The scar story of Jesus is what brings the overcoming our hell on earth.
So in the center of the fires of life you can truly “take heart” or as another translation states “be of good cheer” in the center of your situation because he has already overcome. He beat it back by his death and resurrection. He remains the overcomer of death, hell and the grave. So I read these words of the apostle Paul with a side-eye sigh and final acceptance:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17
Greater glory. Simply, there is still something ahead for us. These troubles, these hells here on this planet will pass. And if we faithfully walk in places of peace and places of trouble we will receive the promise.
Friend, we share an address. I live where you live. I walk through the hells of life, too. I have hurt, I have faced devastation and been journeying down the road. As cliche as it sounds in a country song, there is an element of truth to it.
If you are walking through hell, keep on walking. You have this reminder: he is our peace. You have been given a promise: he has already overcome.
Keep on walking…