“As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'” – Luke 24:36-49ESV
When you’ve grown up in the United States, it can be difficult to tell what you really need. In a culture where obesity is more a problem than starvation, when the first time you experience death is often saying goodbye to Grandma or Grandpa in the hospital, when it’s shocking a house or apartment doesn’t have central heat and air conditioning, when owning a car is more of an expectation than a luxury…our sense of what’s really needed in life tends to a get a little skewed.
Our list of needs tends to look more like a list of desires…things that are wonderful to have and certainly make life better, but not things we cannot live life without. It might look like a newer laptop or smartphone to make work easier, or almond milk for our speciality coffee because we found out we’re lactose intolerant. Whatever is on our “needs” list, they’re certainly only positive things.
But what if sometimes, what we really need is something that looks like a lot like disaster from the outside. What if sometimes…the worst thing we can imagine happening to us is actually what we need to become all we are capable of being? What if sometimes, our hardships are the key to the meaning-infused lives we long for?
When the Jesus comes to the disciples in Luke 24, they are hiding in fear for their lives from the Jewish authorities. They had just watched the man they loved and followed for over three years be brutally abused and murdered. They believe the one they thought was their savior is dead and lost forever. Though they have seen an empty tomb and heard the testimony of women that Jesus is alive, they haven’t seen Him with their own eyes and can’t dare to believe good can come from all the horror they’ve been witness to the last three days. They’ve thrown their lives away. Everything has come to disaster.
In the midst of their despair, Jesus appears, and He says something interesting, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things“ (Luke 24:46-48). In other words, the disciples had been allowed to go through what they had in the last few days, in order to make them witnesses. In fact, it was critical for what came next: the call to bring the message of salvation to the rest of the world.
It is the cause to which the disciples gave the rest of their lives. It was the cause they felt so strongly for that of the eleven disciples remaining at the resurrection, ten would die as martyrs and the eleventh (John) would die in exile on the island of Patmos (a prison island). The hardship they endured made them capable of enduring the journey ahead, a journey they were willing to die for.
In other words, the horror and hardship they experienced at Jesus’ death was the very thing they needed to become brave, courageous, determined voices for the truth no matter the consequences.
In our lives as believers, we will experience hardship. Sometimes hardship that is hard to imagine anyone enduring through. As long as sin and death are in the world, as long as Satan attempts to war against God, we will suffer. But our very hardships, endured through the love and presence of Jesus, can make us into the very people we long to be: courageous, determined voices of truth and love to a broken world.
- Think of a hardship you experienced when you were younger. What was that experience?
- Looking back at that experience now, can you see any good that came out of that experience that you’re not sure would have happened otherwise?
- Think of a current hardship you are experiencing. How would it help you endure this situation if you could see how God might use it for good in your life?
- Challenge for the week: Write down a current hardship you are going through. Really analyze it and try to look at it with “outside” perspective. Ask God to show you how to grow positively from this experience and pay attention for His guidance in the days ahead.