When Elisabeth Elliot first learned that her husband, Jim, had gone missing among the Auca Indians in the Ecuadorian jungle, the Lord brought Isaiah 43:2 to mind. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.” She prayed this simple prayer to steady her troubled heart, “Lord, let not the waters overflow.”
Miles away, the lifeless body of her husband lay in the Amazon River. Jim and his four missionary friends had been speared to death while trying to reach the natives with the Gospel. In the days and weeks that followed, Elisabeth had to come to grips with the reality that her world had suddenly, and forever changed. But she remembered God’s faithfulness to her and said, “The Lord heard me and he answered me and the waters did not overflow.”
The waters must’ve been threatening to overflow the levees of the disciples’ hearts on the night Jesus told them, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you…‘Where I am going you cannot come” John 13:33.
Waves of bad news
The bad news had been hitting the disciples in waves. First, one of their own, Judas, had left their ranks to betray the Lord and sell his soul for the price of a slave (John 13:21-30). Then Jesus announced he was leaving them for good (John 13:33). Then a breath later, he informed Peter, chief among the disciples, that he would deny him three times (John 13:38).
The waves threatened to overflow his disciples’ weak and weary hearts. But Jesus did not leave his disciples there. Into this troubling situation, Jesus spoke words of comfort.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”John 14:1-4
These words must’ve stunned the disciples. All the conversation in the Upper Room that evening centered around death, betrayal, and denial. The thought of a future without Jesus right there beside them was inconceivable. While the shepherd was just hours away from becoming the sacrificial lamb, his concern was not for himself, but for his sheep.
“Let not your hearts be troubled.”
The pounding waves of grief had been splashing over the top of their troubled hearts and had now begun to settle. How could it be that in this tumultuous situation, an untroubled heart could be found? He wanted them to look beyond their current circumstances and toward their heavenly home and the shepherd who would safely lead them there.
Friend, maybe you’re traveling through troubled waters that threaten to overflow your life.
Like Elisabeth, you’ve cried out for help in the midst of a tsunami. Or, like the disciples, you’ve been confronted with circumstances that cause dread and fear to well up in your heart. If so, know that your Shepherd has words to settle your troubled heart right now. You can keep an untroubled heart because:
Your Father’s house is big and there’s room for you.
There’s a space in the Father’s house that has your name on it. Can you imagine? Somehow, in the mercy and creative genius of our God, he’ll fit every saint from every age inside his house and still have room to spare. No need to worry if you’ll have to settle for a space near the Father’s house, like a servant who commutes to work. As his child, there’s a space reserved there just for you. You’ll live under his roof, and you’ll be near your Father.
He’s coming again to take you to himself.
Perhaps the second most comforting statement after “Let not your hearts be troubled,” is, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself…(3).” He’s coming back and he’s coming to get you. When you’ve been brought safely home to Jesus you know that you’ll forever be with him. That alone will be heaven enough for your soul.
We know the way to get there.
Jesus told the disciples that they knew the way he was going. Thankfully, Thomas, who always wanted proof and all the logical details worked out, asked the question everyone was wondering. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). The answer Jesus gave is the answer you’d expect. He was the way.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life”
While these words often stir up controversy, they were first given to deliver comfort. In the sixth, of his “I am” statements, Jesus claimed to be the only access point to get to the Father.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”John 14:6
There’s no getting around the exclusivity of his claim. He did not say he was a way among many ways or a door among many doors. There’s only one door, and one way, and that’s through Jesus Christ.
John Piper said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And as I go I become the way that you get there. I am the truth that you hold onto to get there. And I am the life – the eternal life that you will enjoy when you get there. When I say, “I go to prepare a place for you,“ I mean: I open the way. And I am the way. I confirm the truth. And I am the truth. I purchase the life. And I am that life.”
Friend, because we know Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, we can keep an untroubled heart no matter what troubling circumstances come our way.
You know the way
In the years following Jim’s death, Elisabeth wrote and spoke about suffering and how to keep an untroubled heart. She said, “I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering, God has taught me the deepest lessons. And if we’ll trust him for it, we can come to the unshakable assurance that he’s in charge, he has a loving purpose, and he can transform something terrible into something wonderful. Suffering is never for nothing.”
The disciples were the first to learn that lesson. When Jesus told them to not let their hearts be troubled, the horrors of the cross were only hours away. But out of that horrific suffering, something wonderful was happening. The Way was making the way for us to get to the Father’s house.
Jesus wants us to keep an untroubled heart. We know he’s the only way, the only truth, and the only life, and we can trust him to lead us home, come hell or high waters.
P.S. Don’t leave without grabbing something to go. Grab my free 6-part devotional on David’s Psalm 23, another deeply comforting passage in times of trouble.