In John 14-16, Jesus offers His disciples wonderful teaching — ministering to them before He suffers and dies for them. It’s a powerful moment where He shows His love for them, but also acknowledges that their lives in this world will including suffering.
In a sense, He seems to be preparing them for the life He is calling them to, namely, spreading the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth — a wonderful mission that will come at a cost. Throughout these chapters (known as the Farewell Discourse) our Lord reminds them of the hope, peace, joy and love that He gives to all His people, even amid the hardest circumstances.
One of my favorite parts of this section of John’s Gospel is right at the beginning of John 14. In verse 1 Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” While this may be a familiar verse, it is quite striking given the context. In the lead-up to these comments, Jesus had predicted His death multiples times. John tells us Jesus was “troubled in Spirit” (John 13:21), which we can only assume the disciples would have noticed. Jesus had also just told them one of the 12 disciples would betray Him, and that by morning Peter would three times deny knowing Him.
The most common disease
All of this is very bad news for the disciples. All of this seems to be a fine reason to be troubled in heart. The future seems bleak. Considering the context, Jesus’ words feel calloused and almost cruel. So why would Jesus at this point stop and command them to not let their hearts be troubled?
I believe this is one of the greatest moments in the history of Christian counseling. Every human being knows that life in this world can quickly bring heart trouble. There are so many different things that can disappoint us, grieve us, trouble us, and hurt us. The heart is seemingly vulnerable to trouble on every side. Heart trouble may be the most common disease in the world. No amount of money, power or comfort can protect us from being troubled in heart, which is why I’m so thankful Jesus took the time to teach us the only true cure.
Faith — faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ — is the only remedy for our troubled hearts. To believe more thoroughly, trust more fully, and rest more firmly on the Lord Jesus Christ is the prescription our Lord offers to the disciples. We try to deal with our troubled hearts in a myriad of ways, yet Jesus cuts through all of it with seven words: “Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
The disciples had already believed in Jesus at this point and had even publicly affirmed their faith that He was the son of God. Therefore, Jesus must be encouraging them to more fully practice their faith. Our faith and trust in Christ can always grow deeper and broader. Our hearts get troubled as our faith weakens, and so being troubled of heart shows us our need to more fully trust in Christ.
Dump your burdens
Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne offered great advice along these lines: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” M’Cheyne’s simple advice perfectly encourages the practice of faith. If you look at yourself, you’ll find reasons to be discouraged and downcast. But if you look at Christ, who He is and all that He has accomplished for you, you will see more clearly the one who can heal all the pain and brokenness a human heart can experience. Like Peter walking on the water, we need to look more steadily at Jesus, and less at the waves and winds of this life (Matt 14:29-30). We need to raise our gaze.
What does this look like practically? If you are feeling troubled in heart right now as you read this, what can you do?
Practice coming to Jesus. Jesus invites us to come to Him in prayer and bring Him all our heart troubles. We can tell Him about our difficulties and our burdens, “casting our cares on him because he cares for us.” Jesus invites us to come to Him with our failures and heartaches and let Him minister to us. The Christian is the person who always has a place to go.
As Jesus said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We actually have to believe that Christ cares for us in the midst of the difficulties of our lives and that He can be trusted to help us carry everything we are going through. We must learn to lay our burdens on Him (and leave them with Him), and ask Him for more of the faith, grace, hope, peace, joy and love that He promised repeatedly.
Too often we get in our own way by not coming to Christ, not believing He really cares, or not trusting Him to help us as He promised He would. We look to ourselves, to friends and loved ones to find relief of heart. Our lack of faith and trust gets in our way.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can improve on Jesus’ advice: “Believe in God. Believe also in me.” We believe, Lord, help our unbelief.
Copyright 2021 Andrew Hess. All rights reserved.