In Luke 7, we read the story of the Widow of Nain. Nain was a small village which Jesus visited during his ministry. As he entered the village, there was a funeral procession heading out to bury a young man. He was “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow,” (v. 11). Jesus felt compassion for this woman and he went up to her and told her “Do not weep.” With that, he raised her son from the dead and “gave him back to his mother.”
Anyone who has lost a loved one can imagine the relief, joy, and gratitude that must have swept over this woman. She had already lost a husband, and now; without her son to support her, this woman’s future was bleak. Jesus arrives in town at a moment of hopelessness, and he restores to her the son she loved and depended upon. What incredible joy she must have felt!
The story of this miracle is only seven verses long, but there is a lot to chew on. Notice that Jesus comes to this woman in a time of deep sorrow and need. She has seen her share of troubles, but Jesus turns her sorrow to joy, just as he promises to do for us.
Consider too what Jesus’ miracle did not do. The woman’s husband was not restored. Her every trouble and pain was not healed. At some point, after Jesus had moved on from Nain, she herself would face the many toils and troubles of life, including her own eventual death. As for her son, he too would die a second time. This is not to discount Jesus’ miraculous works, but rather to remind us that his purpose is much bigger than dealing with the problems of this life.
We all long for our earthly pains to be relieved. This widow was hurting, her sorrow was great, and her life had been hard. But beyond her present troubles was the fact that she, like us, was separated from God by her sin. While Jesus did provide an amazing comfort for her in this life; the fact is that he was on a greater mission. God’s only son raised this widow’s only son, but he also died so that he and his mother could receive forgiveness and eternal life. An eternity in which they would be reconciled to God and where the pain of death could never again separate them!
There is a danger for us when we view Christ as our helper only for the here and now. When we have such a small view of him we are also in danger of losing faith in him when the inevitable difficulties we face aren’t relieved. When we do this we are making idols of the things we want in this life, and placing those idols above God’s greatest gift. Jesus offers a greater help to us; he fixes the single biggest problem that we all have.
It is with that longer view in mind that Christ warned that this life would have tribulation (John 16:33). The apostles urged believers to endure hardship and accept troubles. Jesus, by his own example, endured a horrendous crucifixion because he knew what would come afterwards:
“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”
By all means we should accept the earthly blessings our Lord gives us. When our suffering is relieved in this life we should rejoice and give thanks. But we know that this world can never be all we need. It will fail us and we will suffer some of the pain of its brokenness. We must remind ourselves that the help we truly need has been secured by our savior through his suffering. Like him, we endure with our eyes set on the joy that is to come. When we stand before him in heaven, we will not remind him of the trials we endured in this life. That pain will be gone, we will dwell with God and we will rejoice that finally, and for all eternity, we will never have to endure it again.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(I Peter 1:3-7).
by Chris Gingrich