"The only constant is change."
Most of us have probably heard that statement. And it's true. Just take one glance at the world, and it is clear that things are not as they should be. Circumstances are constantly shifting. People betray. Disaster strikes. Health fails. Finances deplete. Disappointments burden.
Just last month, our nation experienced the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, followed by a devastating fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. This week, a tornado flattened the town of Moore, Oklahoma. One moment, relative peace. The next, discord and chaos.
How in the world are we to deal with the inconsistencies—no, the tribulations—of this life?
We can complain and grumble. We can ignore. We can laugh it off. We can worry. We can rage. We can blame. We can run away and hide. We may exhibit all of these responses at some point or another. The frustration, though, lies in knowing that none of these reactions can truly change a thing. And just when we think circumstances are “on the upward swing,” another unexpected shift occurs.
Scripture gives us a better way to view our constantly shifting world by teaching us where to place our security, identity and hope.
The apostles of the early church found themselves up against this challenge. Persecuted at every turn for proclaiming the name of Christ, their circumstances simply could not be relied upon as they traveled from city to city, sharing the Gospel. Listen to how Paul describes their many tribulations:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
There was something wholly different about the way these men responded to their unpredictable circumstances. Amidst their seemingly dire, painful and disheartening situations, they discovered the secret to never losing heart:
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The apostles chose never to lose heart because they put their hope in the only true, unseen God who never changes. Because of God’s unchanging nature, they trusted that His promises were true, His Kingdom never-failing, and their identities forever secure in Jesus Christ.
And so it can be for you.
As followers of Christ, our identity is no longer found in this world. So when the winds of change begin to blow violently all around us, we can choose to focus instead on our unchanging God. We can confidently rest in the sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to make us blameless before the Father. We can wholly believe in the power of the resurrection to raise us to eternity. We can firmly trust God’s justice to make all wrongs right. We can assuredly hope in Christ’s promise to redeem all things unto Himself. This steadfast confidence remains, whether all is right with the world or chaos takes its toll.
Be encouraged by three more specific reasons as to why we do not lose heart:
ONE: We view the imperfections, disappointments and tribulations of our earthly bodies and our transient world as reminders. Paul says, "our outer self is wasting away," knowing full-well the frailties of the flesh and the troubles of the world. When situations are constantly in flux all around us, we are reminded that we are not home yet. This does not negate the difficulty of enduring heart-wrenching trials and devastations; so many troubles do indeed sadden our souls and make us yearn for our home in eternity. But we can choose not to lose heart by realizing that the world is fallen and cannot supply the constancy and security that our hearts were made to desire. In the words of the psalmist,“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalms 73:26).
TWO: Our sanctification is guaranteed. Since we are in Jesus Christ, who is the power of the resurrection, our "inner self is being renewed day by day." Although we will not attain our perfect, heavenly bodies until Christ takes us home, we rest assured that He is completing the work He began in us when we trusted Him as Savior (Philippians 1:6).
THREE: We gain a transformed perspective. Paul says that our worldly affliction is preparing for us an eternal reward “beyond all comparison.” We do not lose heart because our earthly battles are temporal in the grand scheme of the eternal Kingdom of God. This is not to belittle the pain that results from the battles, as even Christ knew unbearable suffering on the way to the cross (Philippians 3:10). But the resurrection changed everything. With the Kingdom of God as the ultimate reward and measure of glory, we can choose to view our circumstances through a transformed perspective and not lose heart.
This life is full of troubles. Jesus proclaimed this reality to His disciples over two-thousand years ago, and its truth remains. As a twenty-four-year-old, I know that I have only just skimmed the surface of our fallen world and all its implications. Yet, regardless of age, what blessed assurance for us to realize that whatever comes, Jesus’ hopeful words ring true: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Kristen Leigh Evensen is a writer, blogger and singer/songwriter. She writes on faith and identity at The Identity Project and keeps a column at WHOLE Magazine. Her desire is to see women transformed by the Gospel! Follow her on Twitter @kristenlevensen and on Facebook.