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The Last Word on Difficulty

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Life isn’t easy. In our bodies, finances, jobs, health, relationships, and souls, struggle and difficulty are common to the human condition. Why such trouble? What lies behind adversity? Why do we suffer?

In the modern West, our great strides away from disease and hardship render many kinds of suffering or discomfort almost abnormal. But for the earliest Christians, suffering and pain were facts of life. Where evil or oppression existed, Christians were to confront and expose it. In the face of sickness or pain, Christians came to the afflicted with relief, comfort, and healing.

To describe God’s desire for the world, the Bible uses the Hebrew word shalom, often roughly translated into the English word “peace.” Yet shalom is far more than absence of war and conflict. Shalom is a thriving fullness of life as it ought to be: whole, healthy, and balanced.

Our world has vandalized shalom. Fallen human beings as well as fallen cosmic beings disrupt God’s intentions for our health and life. Adversity comes from internal sins and external temptations, through workplace conflict, cancer, or hurricanes; the world is not as it should be.

But there is hope. The narrative of Jesus’ stilling of the storm is the gospel story in microcosm. Jesus is asleep in the boat while his disciples struggle to stay afloat. His slumber is an image of the absent God, one who seems uncaring or even dead to us. “Master, save us!” the disciples cry. “Don’t you care if we drown?” Their cry is our cry: where is God in the midst of adversity and suffering? Does he not care?

Jews understood the sea as the domain of chaos and evil—inhabited by Leviathan, the denizen of the deep who lived outside of God’s purposes. In the minds of first-century Jewish readers, the sea’s rising against Jesus and his disciples is more than a natural storm. This was an assassination attempt, the forces of chaos and evil trying to bring down the Son of God.

Jesus rouses and utters a simple command—“Peace. Be still.” Shalom. This is not the way things are supposed to be. Let shalom be restored. Let wrongs be righted. Let there be peace on earth.

Instantly the storm is quelled. Shalom is restored. Chaos and evil are overcome. In Jesus Christ, the power of God sets things aright. The calming of the storm foreshadows the crucifixion and the resurrection. Jesus is the One who rises from slumber to save us from perishing.

Be not afraid. In adversity of every sort, no matter the source, we cling to our hope in Christ. He rises from death to deliver us from evil. Through Jesus, God declares to the world that hardship and adversity do not have the final word. God has the last word, and it is shalom.

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