Help is By Your Side {For When Life Feels Heavy and Hope Seems Impossible}

This week. It gets me every year. It yanks me up by my from silly places of security and reminds me the Sovereign One reigns.

Fifteen years ago today our family lost our home (and a few pets) to fire. Even as I write this, the memory feels heavy. It’s like a bully taunting from behind a cyclone fence.

Every year in this week something bad happens. It’s like a rhythm of life from which I can’t run away. It seems to be that April Showers are God’s rains falling on the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). You don’t need me to remind you of the unspeakable tragedy that has fallen on us this week. Your tears are reminder enough.

History {for whatever reason} records the many tears of April. Lincoln’s Assassination. The Titanic. Martin Luther King Jr’s Assassination. Waco. Oklahoma Bombing. Columbine. VA Tech Massacre. The list goes on and on. It seems April was born for tragedy, both public and private.

The weight of grief and loss and reminders us that life is not ours to control. Ambition and security get all sobered up in the face of events like the ones being splashed across our T.V. screens, our neighborhoods, and our hearts. Grief is like a pillow seeking to suffocate hope.

In the Gospel of John, chapter sixteen we are able to eavesdrop on Jesus preparing the disciples for their hour of grief. His hour was upon him and it would leave the disciples without his physical presence and protection. Hard days lay ahead for these disciples. Hard days lay ahead for all disciples of the Suffering Servant. Dreams get snuffed out in an instant. Homes burn. Friends betray. Zealots attack. Pain is inevitable.

In John 16:6 Jesus says to his disciples, “Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.” I imagine if I had been Peter or Andrew that I would be thinking, I can’t do this. I can’t carry on a mission you just told me is going to be lonely, painful, and filled with so much hostility. I would maybe, timidly, raise my hand and ask, “Is there another way? An easier way? A happier way? Jesus, can you give me the American Dream version of your plan?”

Somewhere maybe in all of us there is this pie in the sky thinking that Jesus passes out glossy-brochure adventures to a few and maybe we will be the lucky ones who get the Hallmark, made-for-TV inspirational version.

But then tragedy like in Boston and in West Texas strikes are we remember that our fallenness is real. We remember that all our hard work to achieve a dreamy life is just one strike away from the blows of tragedy. We are just very small people living in a very big world of fallenness. And like the disciples, sorrow fills our hearts and we wonder if or how we carry on it. It seems too much for a little someone like me…or you…to do.

I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you” John 16:7. Hard to face realities were never meant to faced alone. Jesus knew they would be too much for us, they are meant to be too heavy for one little someone like me…or you…to carry on their own. 

And so He promises and provides the Paraclete–the helper. He gives us the One who comes alongside and helps us to get up again and keep going when the Aprils of life open up on us. Isn’t it just like God to make sure that we have a suitable helper? You know, he did it for Adam in the first garden. No suitable helper could be found, so he provided Adam with Eve.

Here we are in the new garden–the garden of rebirth and restoration–and again, no suitable helper can be found so he provides us with…well, with himself, his Spirit, to comfort us. We have been given to the Spirit to pull us out of the rubble of this mess, dust us off, and help us move on. Isn’t it just like God to make sure that we have the help we need? 

John 16 goes on to instruct us that our Helper helps us in three ways.

One: He proves the world wrong about sin, because they lack belief in the necessity and sufficiency of Christ’s work (v. 9). The Holy Spirit guides people to see that their little selves are not up to the challenges of the dominion of darkness in a human heart–a Savior is needed. He guides them to Jesus.

Two: He proves the world wrong about righteousness (v. 10). For the first disciples they had Jesus as the model of how to respond correctly to the circumstances of life. When pain was present, he served as a balm. When the poor were hungry, he fed them. When enemies harmed, he served them. With Jesus physically absent, the Holy Spirit would continue on the righteous ways of Jesus in the life of every believer…them, you, me…in the circumstances of life like we find ourselves in this week. Jesus entered a despairing world. He still keeps entering it with love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit sustains Christ righteousness every time we obey his prompting to do what Jesus would do in the way he would do it.

Three: He proves the world wrong about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned (v. 12). Without the Holy Spirit we would look at Boston and surmise that the bad guys are winning, evil is taking the prize. Our Helper reminds us that the victory is secure in Jesus. Yes, the world may take our physical life, but we are guarded and protected by the proclamation that death has lost its sting. Our real life is in Jesus and the Holy Spirit ensures that the judgment of death will have no April power in our hearts.

Because of our Helper, we do not grieve as those without hope (I Thess. 4:13). Our hope is Jesus–the wonderfulness of his salvation, the beauty of his righteousness, and the conviction of his (and therefore, our} victory. A happy, safe, friendly, comfortable life is a false hope…and really no hope at all. Take heart that these things happened so that we might depend on God (2 Cor. 1:9).

Friend, it has been a hard week. Our Helper is by our side to help us to keep hoping. He is with us. Every April. In the face of all that is so hard for us to bear. Is it not good news that we don’t have to face it alone? 

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