Tribulation encompasses a great deal more than you may conceive when you hear the word. I imagine it brings to mind traumatic things like martyrdom, the big C, death of a loved one, living in a war zone, your house burning down or being destroyed in a tornado; you get the idea. But tribulation encompasses life in this world period, even if these other “BIG things have not happened to you. Tribulation is also Murphy’s Law; it’s a sliver in your finger; weeds in your garden; burning your finger on a hot stove; tripping and falling; embarrassing yourself. I do not mean to minimize grievous suffering, but rather to make the point that tribulation is at work every day of your life in this fallen world. An accumulation of “smaller trials as a dripping faucet over days, months, or years sometimes erupts into a trauma impacting your life, mind, and emotions. Tribulation produces depression; attacks health; ruins relationships. It takes away employment. It frustrates, irritates, and wears one’s nerves to a frazzle. Tribulation is everyone’s lot in one form or another throughout their entire life.
Karl Marx once said, “Religion is the opium of the masses, indicating that as the “masses are mired in the tribulations of this life, they “escape their troubles, sorrows, and frustrations by becoming numbed to them through the practice of their religion. Genuine Christianity’s antidote is quite the opposite of Marx’s verdict. Just as the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:18) set at opposite ends of the spectrum what it means to be filled with the Spirit over against getting drunk on wine (or opium, or any other substance used to dull the mind and escape the pain), Jesus bluntly told his followers they would face tribulation as long as they were in the world, and never promises to remove the “thorns in their flesh, or, that is, the myriad of thorns that constitute tribulation. Jesus’ antidote for His followers is not some mind altering escape mechanism from reality; rather it is attaching our self to the Conqueror that we might overcome the world by being united to Him, even as we experience and stare tribulation in the face. We do not escape tribulation; we confront it; and on the back of Jesus we overcome and conquer it.
In facing tribulation, Jesus says to you now as He did His disciples then, “Cheer up, take heart, be of good courage, for I have overcome the world. You are no more alone than I was when you deserted me prior to the cross, for the Father was with me . . . . . . so We shall be with you! (John 16:32-33) There are many believers today who battle depression and sadness, who feel alone and pressed on every side, who wonder every day “when the next shoe will drop, who are paralyzed because of tribulation and unsure how to combat it. The Apostle Paul shared your experience: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. He explains we carry the treasure of our salvation in “jars of clay; we are that fragile! But this is “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
Tribulation’s purpose is to drive us to Christ. If it does not, the thorns and thistles will overcome you. Throwing yourself on Christ is no different than breathing. It is a constant and continuing act of faith; and the only antidote to overcome the trials in your life; small trials or big; the ones that elicit a curse, as well as those that crush your heart. Medicines, anti-depressants, prescriptions may indeed lessen pain for a season and help the healing process, but overcoming and conquering is not in their power. Only Christ overcame the world; and only in claiming Him, clinging to Him, and throwing yourself on Him in the midst of tribulation will you conquer. And Jesus said, “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
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