By Beverly Carradine
The words of the title of this chapter were among the last the Saviour uttered to His disciples. Impressive and precious as all last words are, they were also remarkable in view of the circumstances which at that very moment surrounded the speaker and those to whom He was talking. Not only trouble was in the air, but death itself was approaching that little band.
In preaching the truth Christ had, so to speak, parted with His life. He was a doomed man. The high church circles whom He had unmasked and offended had already determined that He should die, and in the shape of a mixed mob was on the way then to arrest, give Him a mock trial, scourge, and crucify Him. And yet, knowing that all these things were coming to pass, that He would be slain, that the little flock before Him would be scattered and afterwards, at different times and places, be killed forsaken, yet in view of all this He said, "Let not your heart be troubled."
There was nothing spoken to the disciples, but is also meant for any and all believers. These gracious words are for us today as truly as they were for Christ's followers two thousand years ago. There were reasons for their utterance then, and these reasons are the same and just as weighty now. To any thoughtful Christian, several facts arise in the mind why God's people should not carry in their breasts a troubled heart.
One is that such distress unfits the child of God for Christian service.
There is something about the cherishing or brooding over sorrow that paralyzes all religious power and activity. The heart freezes, the mind becomes dull, the tongue stiffens, the hands and feet feel like lead, and the life fairly stagnates. Needed as a helper and consoler in the world, here is a man demanding help and consolation for himself. It is amazing to note the number of Christians in the church who are being coddled, nursed, petted, patted and sugar-plummed on their way to heaven. Absorbed in their own griefs and cares, they demand our attention that should be given to the unconverted, and fail to consider the surrounding woes of men, because buried in their own temporal and spiritual trials.
A second reason arising in the mind as to why the Christian should not be troubled, is that such a spirit and life but poorly recommend the gospel we profess. If Christ and His salvation are what the church declares they are, what room can there be for gloom and despair? The Christian ought to be the happiest man in the world. The Lord has promised us not only the life that now is, but that which is to come, and adds that all things shall work together for our good. The sight then of a black-dressed, crepe-veiled, long-faced, mournful-tongued, heavy-hearted, deep-sighing set of people calling themselves Christians is enough to set every worldly observer against the religion we profess.
A third reason against spiritual gloom is that cherishing a troubled heart is a reflection on God's love and faithfulness.
We once read of a woman who had lost her husband. For hours at a time she would sit in her chair robed in black and sigh and weep. Her little five-year-old boy was profoundly puzzled as well as distressed, and approaching her one day, he asked:
"Mamma, is God dead?"
The Spirit used the question of the child to arouse the woman, and show her the folly, unbelief, ingratitude and even sinfulness of such a course. She instantly wiped her eyes and said to herself, "I have acted as if there was no God, but from this moment I will cease to doubt and repine, and will believe, obey and honor Him in all things." God has promised to see us through, His word has gone forth, and yet the disconsolate Christian acts as if either the promise had not been made, or if given would never be fulfilled.
When Payson was dying he said that if he had seen in life what he now beheld from his death pillow, the faithfulness of God at all times and in all things, he would have been saved a world of worry and needless pain. In other words, God is faithful, was so to Payson, will be so to us, and why then should we be troubled?
Strange to say, while the above three reasons seem to be full of force and commend themselves for their excellence, yet they are not the reasons Christ gave the disciples that last sorrowful night of His life, why they should not be troubled.
If the reader will turn to the fourteenth chapter of John and read, he will find three facts mentioned by the Saviour which, if received by His followers, should banish every particle of heavy-heartedness and fill them with joy and comfort
One statement is, "I go to prepare a place for you."
The reader will recall that a similar speech has often been made by a husband to his wife. Compelled to leave her for distant lands, to be gone for months and years, he cheers her with the words that he is going to prepare a home for her.
It is wonderful how household discomforts and disagreeable surroundings can be endured by a woman who realizes at the same time that a beautiful home is going up for her in a lovely spot in some distant state. In fancy she sees the broad porch and lofty walls gleaming through encircling trees and shrubbery, and bears with a smile the cramped and narrow quarters which she now recognizes to be but a temporary inconvenience and affliction.
In like manner Jesus would cheer us with the thought that although absent in body from us, yet is he busily employed for our future comfort. He is preparing a place for us in the Kingdom of Glory.
What this fully means, who is able to say? but that it means something we cannot question. And what a thrill it brings us in the midst of all the hardships and trials of the present life to know that the Saviour is having a heavenly mansion built and fitted for us.
The very absence of Christ takes on a new and beautiful meaning with the thrilling thought, "He is absent for my sake. He is working for me up yonder while I live for Him down here."
A second statement of Christ as a ground for our not being troubled is seen in the words, "I will not leave you comfortless."
The idea is that though far away in heaven, we are not forgotten. Jesus is mindful of us and so we shall not be overlooked. We shall be remembered and comforted all through the long absence of the heavenly Bridegroom in ways unmistakable and blessed.
If the reader goes back to the picture we drew of the man leaving his wife to prepare her a home, he will see that this additional statement still agrees with the figure. The absent husband with all his activity in the distant state or country does not forget the wife left behind. Constant letters and frequent remittances are tantamount to saying, "I will not leave you comfortless." And as the drafts or bank bills fall into the lap of the wife, as her moistened eyes read with eager interest the lines of love and devotion which tell her how she is remembered and cherished in that far away heart, one can see that she has not been left comfortless.
In still tenderer and more powerful ways Jesus consoles those whom he loves while separated from them. Although there is a great day of reward coming for them and a time of glorious entrance into the city of God by them, yet the Saviour knows how the heart droops and sickens under sore experiences along life's road, and the weary flight of years which must roll by before heaven begins, so the faithful soul left on earth is kept in astonishment and delight at the frequent and heavy remittances of grace, and thrilled over blessed communications sent fresh from the skies. Verses and chapters of the Bible are lighted up with new meaning, the closet of prayer illumined with divine glory, the church becomes a door of heaven, the sermon a letter from God, while in holy reading by day and meditation in the wakeful night the Holy Ghost takes the things of Christ and shows them to the raptured soul, and fills the spirit with a mingled rest and joy utterly unknown to the world.
The third statement made by Christ why the heart of His follower should not be troubled is in the words, "I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also."
The reader will observe that this third thought is still in harmony with the figure of the husband who departs for the sake of the wife to a distant country. While he goes, he proposes to return, and the day comes when, the house being finished, his plan accomplished, he does return and this time for his wife whom he brings to the new home.
This is the bright hope and joyful assurance of Christianity. The Lord is coming back to earth, and coming for His people. The Bridegroom, having prepared the mansion in the skies, is going to return for His bride and bear her away through the skies to the kingdom of Glory.
Some persons are looking for the coming before the millennium, and some after, but all will agree that Jesus is going to return and will come back for those He loves who have been separated from Him so long, and have been waiting with longing hearts for His appearance.
We have seen the homecoming of a long absent husband and father, and it was so tender and rapturous that a heart of stone would have melted at the sight. The aged father and mother, the wife, the little prattling ones, the older sons and daughters, the family servants, even the faithful house dog, were all there to welcome the solitary approaching figure who was so much to all in love, present comfort and future welfare.
But take the scene with all its smiles, tears, sobs, kisses, embraces and outcries, and multiply it ten thousandfold over, and what have we to compare with the return of Christ for His Church when He comes to receive her to Himself, introduce her into her beautiful heavenly home, and sit her down forever at His side!
No pen, pencil nor brush, no voice nor instrument of music can ever bring forth in their respective ways, on page or canvas, in band or orchestra, an infinitesimal fraction of the joy and rapture that shall be seen and heard in that hour. The long-expected Bride of Christ is brought home. The Church is at rest from all her toils and trials. The people of God, with the tears wiped from every face, with garments of light upon their bodies, and everlasting joy in their souls, are led into their final and eternal home and resting place by the hand of the Son of God Himself. What song can be sung, what words could be spoken over such a marvellous scene and hour but the song of Moses and the Lamb, and the cries, "Allelujah!" "Salvation to our God and to the Lamb!"--the very words which the Scripture declares shall be uttered.
May every discouraged, sorrowful Christian who reads this chapter look up and be comforted forevermore! How can we be troubled any longer when we have such statements made to us by the Saviour, "I go to prepare a place for you;" better still, "I will not leave you comfortless;" and best of all, "I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also?"
Truly, the weary soul will one day end its long flight over the billowy stretch of years, and fluttering into the Ark above will nestle in the bosom of the Redeemer. The soldier of the cross will be discharged finally from the greatest war of the universe, and hanging up his sword on the walls of his celestial abode, will know an everlasting peace. The traveller for heaven foot-sore and weary will come at last to the door of his tomb, step through, and instantly find himself at home, in the midst of light and love, to go out no more forever. The bride long expected and desired will reach the mansion prepared for her by divine hands and be met by the Bridegroom Himself. Leaning upon His arm, she will be escorted through shining ranks of angels and archangels, into halls and apartments of indescribable glory and splendor, while the very pillars and arches of the universe will resound and tremble with the songs and acclamations that shall ascend from the golden-paved city.
In a word all will be well with God's people by and by. It is well now for that matter; but there is a home coming and a crowning day awaiting us in the skies, so sweet and blissful and blessed, that the bare thought makes us willing to bear the toil, endure the pain, and gladly suffer the loss of all things that we may win Christ and be found with Him in such a world forever.