Jesus was right, in this world, we will experience tribulation.

Life can truly change in a moment.

My moment came on February 22, 2017. That evening I was informed that I was no longer on staff at the church where I had served as the Equipping Pastor and Missions Pastor for nearly six years.

As repeatedly affirmed by the board of elders, my dismissal had nothing to do with any sin issue, job performance, or family issue. The leadership stated that I had done nothing to disqualify myself from ministry. Although my family and I still do not understand everything, the reason the elders gave for firing me was based on the lead pastor feeling that I was “emotionally disconnected” (which they could never explain what they meant by that).

Into the Wilderness

The last 17 months have been the most painful and challenging season of my life and family. God has healed me of resentment and bitterness by bringing love and forgiveness into my heart. However, I am still in a wilderness of pain and loss:

  • I was betrayed by a close friend I was willing to faithfully serve for the rest of my life.
  • I was let go from a job that I loved and felt was my place of convergence.
  • The process of my firing did not take place in the values of a loving, caring family.
  • My family was deeply wounded and devastated.
  • Lies and mistruths about me and the situation were shared with the church body.
  • Agreements that I had with the elders at that time were broken by them.

Learning in the Wilderness

As hard as this season has been, God has abundantly poured out his faithfulness, kindness, love, and grace upon my family. Also, in the midst of the pain and hurt, God has taught me life-changing lessons about following Jesus and learning how to be a courageous overcomer. God teaches us certain things on the mountains tops, but other things are best learned in the valley and wilderness.

Over the next several posts, I want to share with you what I am learning in the wilderness. Here is the first lesson: Jesus was right, in this world, we will experience tribulation.

Tribulations

John 13 begins the story of Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples in the upper room. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, announces that one of them will betray him, tells them to love one another just as he loves them, foretells Peter of his coming denial, and talks about the Holy Spirit, abiding in him, and his imminent departure.

Jesus then concludes his time with the disciples by stating, “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, ESV).

Jesus informs his followers that in this world we are going to continuously encounter tribulations. The Greek word for “tribulation” can also be translated as: troubles, distress, suffering, oppression, trials, and afflictions.

Troubles

Likewise, in Matthew 6:34 Jesus tells us, “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own” (NET). We do not need to become anxious about the future because this day has enough badness, evil, wickedness, hostility, and hurt in it.

Life is brutal at times. Rejection, betrayal, loss, abandonment, death, loneliness, failure, unemployment, evil, injustice, loss of income, and depression run rampant in our broken, not-yet redeemed world. Or to put it another way, crap happens in life.

American Christianity, for the most part, has conditioned us to avoid suffering, pain, hurt, and loss at all cost.

As we have seen from the Scriptures above, that is not a biblical reality.

When we become a follower of Jesus, we do not obtain an exemption from trials and suffering. Being children of God does not make us immune from experiencing the storms of life. We do not develop a spiritual force field that keeps hurt and pain from penetrating our hearts.

RELATED: Identity: Becoming Who God Says You Are (Part 1 of 4)

So How Do We Respond When We Encounter Pain, Suffering, and Hardships?

1. We are to be courageous that Jesus has won. 

Jesus said, “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV). When tribulations and daily troubles assault us, we can be brave because Jesus has conquered the world. I John 4:4 declares, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, ESV).

It is not enough to only hear the words of Jesus; we must do them. By following Jesus, and putting his words into practice, we can withstand the fiercest storms of life.

2. We must hear and practice the teachings of Jesus. 

At the conclusion of a long teaching, Jesus told the story of two home builders who faced fierce storms. One man wisely built his house on the rock. When the rains fell, the floods came, and the winds battered the house, it stood. The other builder foolishly constructed his residence on the sand. When the same rains fell, the floods came, and the winds beat against this house, it completely collapsed.

Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24, NIV).

3. We must intentionally make time to laugh, sing, dance, and celebrate with one another.

Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4, ESV). Because all of us go through wilderness seasons of hurt and pain, we need to make time to deliberately laugh, sing, dance, and celebrate with others in the midst of a world filled with troubles.

Many of us are currently going through tough and painful situations. Some of you feel overwhelmed by today’s troubles. The good news is that Jesus stepped into our broken, pain-filled world to bring his kingdom. In the midst of the tribulations we encounter, we can be a courageous overcomer through Jesus. “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5, NIV).

Craig Conaway is a trainer, coach, spiritual director, and writer. His passion is to help equip people to be courageous followers of Jesus who impact their spheres of influence for the glory of God. Craig has over 20 years of pastoral experience including directing an in-depth discipleship training school. He recently completed his book, Identity: Being Who God Says You AreCraig resides in Norman, OK with his wife and three kids, and is pursuing his Master’s of Leadership.