Jesus is Present
The last thing Jesus says in the book of Matthew is, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
When we go through hard times, experience pain, or face injustice head on, we must keep in mind that God never asks us to go through anything He hasn’t asked others to go through.
The apostle Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, thrown into prison, and probably partially blind. Daniel was thrown into the Lions Den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told to bow down to a golden statue and then thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused.
Noah had to watch the whole world be destroyed by a flood. Moses spent forty years in the desert watching a whole generation die off before the Israelites were allowed by God to enter the Promised Land. Then after his service, he wasn’t allowed to lead them into that new land.
Even David, a man after God’s own heart and the boy who killed a giant with a single stone, fled for his life, twice—once before he became king and then again later in life when his son rose to kill him to take his throne.
Suffering is a regular part of serving God. An honest read of Scripture shows that it’s to be expected. Even Jesus, God in the flesh, suffered on the cross, was abandoned by his friends, family, and followers, then left to die, alone.
Can you imagine how the disciples felt after Jesus came back to life and then explained why he had had to die? Finally, everything He had taught them for three years made sense. That is, until a few weeks after his death Jesus said, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m leaving and I’m not coming back.’
They must have felt abandoned, alone, confused, and couldn’t understand why, when they had felt so close to God, that He left them to fend on their own.
That’s how we all feel when we go through hard times, when life kicks us in ways that seem unfair, and often is.
But that wasn’t the end of the story for the disciples, and it isn’t the end of the story for us, no matter how low life may take us. Jesus promised that He would be with the disciples always. A strange thing to say when He had immediate plans to ascend and join His Father in heaven. The plan didn’t include taking the disciples with Him.
But Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, who made a grand entrance on Pentecost and left no doubt in the disciples’ minds that God was indeed with them.
We all lose focus, feel alone, and doubt that God is with us. The fact that we face trials, temptations, failures, and tragedies doesn’t mean that God has suddenly turned His back. He’s the same God who was with us when we experienced his grace, his forgiveness, and his presence in ways we have trouble putting into words.
When you are down and life is hard, try to focus on Jesus’ promise to be with you always. It’s true, no matter how you feel. What we can learn from Scripture is that if we remain faithful in the midst of suffering, there is always a payoff on the other side, whether it’s in this life, like Daniel being rescued from the Lions’ Den or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being rescued from the burning furnace, or on the other side of death. One day we will all rise again, resurrected just as Jesus was, to ascend and spend the rest of eternity with God and all His glory.
Then, and only then, will we fully understand the tension in this life between our pain and His goodness.