The Great Tribulation

In this month’s edition (March 2022) of The Atlantic is an article by Arthur C. Brooks entitled, “The Satisfaction Trap.” (He identifies with both Buddhism and Roman Catholicism.) His focus is on the fact that we are very often disappointed in our place in this crazy world. Despite Brooks’ many successes in life, he confesses that the pleasure of these last but a short time, and then he is plunged back into a kind of sadness about himself and his future. I thought to myself that I wished he knew the peace and rest we have in Jesus.

Consider John 16:33b: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The first part of the sentence above, 16:33a) is, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.”

Note that I have highlighted the word tribulation. This same word transliterated from the Greek is thlipsos, usually translated as tribulation, yet is found in verse 21 of this same chapter 16, and here it means anguish. It is highly likely that the translators of the ESV and other newer translations were reluctant to use the less dramatic but more accurate word, anguish. 

Anguish, sorrow, pain, suffering, emotional and mental confusion, even clinical depression and more are what we experience in our living despite success and physical and financial well-being. Jesus knew all about this, and He gave us this wonderful verse, now known as John 16:33, so that we would firmly grasp that we can have peace—His peace—despite the anguish we constantly experience in our living.

We do not have to fake being happy. We do not have to constantly seek our personal well-being and pleasure. We can be sad and unhappy as we see the pain and grief all around us and experience it personally, sometimes deeply. But we do not depend on our feelings, which are just going to be there, or the perversion of the world around us; we have something much more. We have the peace of Jesus, a peace He gives to us by His grace, which is the reality that our personal sin is gone, nailed to the cross of Jesus, and that we have been born anew, never to be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, come what may—personally, physically, politically, financially, socially, you name it.

Right along with the tribulation and anguish we have peace, and this peace is not the absence of conflict or the result of depression, but it is an assurance that all our sin is gone, past, present, future, and that our names are written in the Book of Life, which cannot be erased no matter what. Yes, the trouble, the pain, the grief we experience day in and day out—these go with the territory.

Only Jesus overcomes the world, and by “world” is meant all the presence of sin and evil that cascades down upon us. And Jesus knows this far better than we do as all our sin was placed upon Him at Calvary.

We will not be overcome by the world’s anguish and tribulation. We turn our eyes upon Jesus, our living Lord and Savior. In Him alone we rejoice.

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