Sometimes life and its complications can get to be too much, can’t they? There are so many trials and tribulations in this life that they can become overwhelming, and life itself can come to seem like a burden. We have mortgages to pay, debts to settle, things to plan, kids to raise – and then on top of all that the devil comes in to cause trouble wherever he can, because we still live in a fallen world as fallen people and are constantly tempted and tried.
And we are told to bring our cares to Jesus, but sometimes, even the Church itself may get to be too much for us. Our sins may cause us to want to stay away from Church, away from Jesus, just as Adam and Eve tried to hide from God after their sin. And that’s expected, in a way, because sin drives a wedge among us and between us and God. In addition, sin is in the world, and the Church is in the world, and so sin even intrudes into the Church. And so within the Church itself we still have bickering and strife and trials. Oftentimes it seems as if there is no respite, no rest to find.
Yet, when we’re worn out and overcome by trials and grief in this life and can’t even drag ourselves to church due to the burdens of our sins or troubles, we still have Jesus Christ himself praying for us. That’s the great miracle of God’s grace, that Christ himself came to die for your sins and to reconcile you to God; that he ascended back into heaven, into the presence of His Father, your Father, to intercede before Him on your behalf. When your sins keep you away from church, when your troubles get you down, when you feel you can’t go on, Christ is still there, before the Father, praying for you when you cannot. And he has given you the Holy Spirit to cry out for you as well, even when you do not have the words to cry out yourself. And he gives you himself in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Gospel – constantly giving you himself freely, without cost to you, because he’s already paid the cost.
For God Himself is for you. Your Creator loves you, and He has called you as his people; the Father has given you into the Son’s hand, and the Son constantly prays for you, and the Holy Spirit himself also cries out for you. Christ is no longer in this world, having ascended back into the presence of his Father. But, while you remain in this world, Christ is continuing to pray for you to keep you in the Father’s name and to help make you all one in him (John 17:1-11).
Christ knows your suffering. While he was in this sinful, fallen world, he was despised, rejected, betrayed. He was hit, beaten, spit on, flogged, and crucified. He had his own friend betray him. He had his own family mock him. He was tempted, hungry, dirty, tired; he had work to do and bills to pay. He was sad at times. He even cried (John 11:35). He lived it all, he suffered it all. He knows personally what you go through. Your God knows in person the trials and tribulations you encounter, and he is praying for you and is with you in your pain and sorrow.
And if our God Himself, Jesus Christ, underwent the troubles of a fallen world, do not be surprised if you, as his people, undergo the same types of trials. St. Peter says in his epistle to not be surprised as if this were something strange happening to you (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11). The life of the Christian is characterized by the cross of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is quite often a Good Friday experience, not a Palm Sunday experience. Oftentimes we’re led to think that by being Christians everything will get better. But, in fact, sometimes things get worse; we have Peter telling us this in his epistle. Yet, he’s also pointing us to the fact that things ultimately will get better and calling us to rejoice in our sufferings, because we will behold the glory of Christ when he returns.
Thus, St. Peter tells us to not be ashamed or sad that we encounter trials and tribulations on account of Christ. Christ himself underwent these, and we, as his people – his body – will undergo the same. Yet, Peter tells us not to “suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” We have done nothing wrong in being Christians, yet the world often treats us as if we had. The world treats us as criminals, yet we are God’s own people, prayed for by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was also rejected by the world and tortured and killed. Yet, he is returning in glory from his throne at the right hand of the Father to take up his reign over all the earth.
So, Peter says to cast all your cares on Jesus, because Jesus cares for you. The devil, your adversary, is prowling around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Think again about what the sin that the devil brought into the world has done. It separated Adam and Eve from God, and them from each other, and them from creation itself and even their own bodies since they – and we – suffer decay and death.
And the devil seeks to continue this separation in the world today. He seeks to sow discord among people, particularly among married couples since marriage reflects the sacrificial, gracious love between Christ and his Church. He also seeks to separate people from God, to tear people out of Christ’s hand, so that they might die eternally.
Yet, the devil’s time is short, and Christ has already defeated him on his cross and empty tomb. So, you can resist him, because you are not alone, you have the Son of God on your side, the one who died for your sins and rose to ascend back into the Father’s presence to justify you before him and pray on your behalf. The Son Jesus Christ has conquered over the devil, and you are also conquerors through him.
For, “… after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). Christ is returning to complete what he started with his death and resurrection. He is returning to remove all trials and tribulations from this world, to remove sin, death, and the devil, so that you and he, and you and each other, may live in peace forever. You may be tested by fire in this world, but when Christ returns you will be as radiant steel, tempered and refined by the furnace of this life.
So, when you encounter difficulty in this life, rest assured that Christ is praying for you – along with the rest of the saints – even when you yourself cannot bring yourself to pray. When your sins overwhelm you, rest assured that Christ not only died for them and that he forgives you of all your sins, but also that Christ and all the Church is praying for you to know this. When you feel separated and alienated from other people, even in the Church, rest assured that Christ is praying that you all be as one. And when all hope is lost, rest assured that your hope is still there with your Father and is returning in glory for you.
(Image: Mosaic from Ravenna, (Berlin, Bodemuseum): Christ as Victor with archangels Michael and Gabriel, detail. By Gunnar Bach Pedersen – Own work (own photo), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1620267 )