James 1:2-3: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Trouble and worry go together like peanut butter and jelly! Quoting from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, a former tax collector by the name of Matthew wrote in his gospel (Matthew 6:34):

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Matthew didn’t grow up dreaming of a career in tax collecting. This profession came his way probably because it was offered to him by the Romans who occupied Israel at the time Matthew was alive. Maybe he was an educated man or had other qualities that made him stand out. He got the job because he was qualified and because he needed it. His own finances may have left him no choice – who knows? What we do know about Matthew is his instant attraction to Jesus when He came along. And Jesus, who knows human hearts, read him like a book.

Inspired by Matthew’s heart, Jesus told a story about a tax collector. In His story a Pharisee, obsessed by his own virtue, is contrasted with a tax collector who humbly asks God for mercy. Here was Matthew, who had never met Jesus before, and the first thing he hears from Him is a story of a tax collector; he couldn’t believe his own ears when it dawned on him that the tax collector actually was the hero of the story! Wow, someone like him – a hero?

Trouble had come Matthew’s way in the form of public rejection. People just hated his guts because he was viewed as a collaborator. Matthew knew he could get killed any day by a fellow citizen if he was not careful. He grew tough so the hateful comments of the people around him wouldn’t offend him any longer. But Jesus’s story cut him to the core. This was a no-brainer for him. He got up and left his tax collector’s booth right then and there. He wanted to be near this man Jesus for the rest of his life. And he trusted Him enough to throw all his worries overboard. Following Jesus, he began to live just one day at a time.

Trouble is a standard byproduct of living in this world. There is no such thing as an untroubled life for anybody around here! What Jesus is suggesting is that our Creator can give us solid peace of mind if we let Him take care of us. Living like the birds in the air or the flowers in the field – that is living one day at a time without worrying about the future. God won’t take away our troubles, but He is well able to take away our worries.

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If life had a name, then I’m sure its middle name would be Trouble with a capital T. First and last name? Constant Change! And we can get overwhelmed; we can get stuck; we can get overly attached; we can get numb; we can get depressed;  we can get sweetened or hardened dealing with whatever life throws at us. Note that our hearts are fragile. We need to take good care of our hearts, or else we’ll be overcome by life’s middle name.

How we handle trouble is similar to digestion. Food is worthless and can actually kill us if our bowels refuse to work and our whole digestive system shuts down. Food has to be processed to be of any value. So does life. We need to take time to process life’s events, especially life changing events.

Allow yourself a break when lots of things happen, when we arrive at a crossroad; when changes come our way, when we feel pushed in a corner, when we feel powerless, when we feel angry, especially when we feel defeated and don’t see a way out of a situation. All of that are sure indicators that we need a Time Out.

Jesus spoke words of life into everybody’s struggle when He said:

  • “Take heart!”

We need to take our hearts seriously. The best favor we can do to ourselves is to reconnect with our Creator.

Jesus said:

  • “I have overcome the world”.

Knowing and believing that Jesus can work through every issue with us will guard our hearts from descending into desperation. Jesus added:

  • “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.”

The most precious ointment on a wounded and broken heart is the ointment of peace: the peace of knowing everything is going to be alright; the peace of knowing that God cares; the peace of knowing we are not alone; the peace of realizing that God is near; the peace of knowing we are being carried.

In all troubling matters, we need to cut through the chase and go to the source of the problem to gain clarity.  In matters of peace we too find a source. Jesus can connect us to peace because He is the source of peace. Before His death He told His followers (John 14:27):

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

“Peace be with you” is not an empty wish of His. It’s quite real. And Jesus wants to lay it on us. He makes us an offer that we can refuse, but we are infinitely better off accepting the precious peace He has for us. Take it from the One who knows you best, and let His peace reign in your heart and soul!