I was in the sixth grade. My family had been living in Jamestown, NY for two years. Things had shifted a bit and it seemed like the Lord was calling our family to a new season, in a new location. Indiana, to be exact.
I was born in Indiana, but hadn’t lived there since right around my third birthday, and every thought I had about moving felt like fuzzy photograph—I just couldn’t squint hard enough to get a clear picture. I liked life in Jamestown… it included gymnastics and learning to play the cello and play in the school orchestra. My friends had been hard-earned in the previous two years and I was finally feeling like I belonged. And it was all about to change into something I could neither define or anticipate.
I don’t know what circumstance led me to time reading my Bible in my room (I wasn’t a super holy 11-year old, but I guess my parents had set a good example of leaning into the Word, especially in the unknown), but that’s where I found myself one night. Second-floor bedroom, sitting on my bed, flipping around in my Bible, looking for an answer to a question I hadn’t really even formed.
And there it was.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I don’t know that moving to Indiana from western New York really constitutes as “tribulation,” but my sixth-grade heart really felt like it was & I latched onto that verse like none other.
Even now, I can vividly remember reading up to, “in the world you will have tribulation,” feeling the weight of my unknown circumstance and thinking, “Yeah, I totally know what that means,” and then either having to turn the page or move to the top of the next column on the page to get to the, “But take heart; I have overcome the world,” part. And when I got there, it was like Jesus Himself was sitting next to me on the bed and reached His arm across my shoulders. Like I could take a deep breath, and let out a sigh that carried all my anxiety away. The relief, comfort, and peace were that tangible. Jesus has overcome the world. Every circumstance, every lost friendship, every move, every unknown. He has overcome it.
So of course, I did what every 11-year old girl would do in that situation. I made a poster. Cracked open my box of colored pencils, found a stray piece of poster board, and drew a bubble-letter rendering of John 16:33 to hang on my bedroom wall. Ironically, that little poster actually stayed on my wall all the way through middle school and most of high school, as cheesy and poorly-lettered as it was. It was my lifeline.
Fast forward to my adult life and this verse remains a powerful reminder of God’s sovereign power. Jesus has overcome the world. Every broken relationship, every death, every hurt, every finance, every job, every lost pregnancy, every circumstance, every unknown. He has overcome it.
If you look back in chapter 16 to see what “things” Jesus is referencing telling the disciples about, you’ll see there’s so much hope undergirding the reality He shares to bring them peace.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:20-24
When I look at the context as an adult and reflect on the weight of Jesus’ words, I don’t have to look far for hope! He tells the disciples that He will have to leave them but that He will send the Helper to them, and that the Helper will declare the truths Jesus has taught to them again.
They were confused. Unsure. Sorrowful at the thought of Jesus leaving them.
And in the midst of that confusion, Jesus speaks hope. “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” Of course, the joy He speaks of is the Resurrection that we get to see fully on this side of redemptive history—we are living in the aftermath! These are the things that Jesus tells His disciples so that they “may have peace.” Though they faced tribulation in the world, He has overcome the world. And the same promises apply to us in Christ.
Maybe you find yourself in a season of tribulation, where nothing seems to make sense, and the clear picture isn’t available. All you have is the fuzzy outline of what the future holds. Or, maybe you don’t even have that. Maybe your circumstance, present or future, is just a big dark void right now. Take heart, sister—Jesus has spoken truth that you may have peace; He has overcome the world.
So, bust out your colored pencils & get to work—I see a poster in your future.