“Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).
How many believers have found deep comfort in Jesus’ words to his disciples at the Last Supper: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” On the night before his own death on the cross, Jesus is attentive to the fears of his closest friends, who do not fully understand what is about to take place, and whose own concerns are about being left alone, like orphans, as Jesus prepares to depart.
We say it to each other: “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.” But in times or real crisis and loss, it is impossible to feel confident and unafraid, and comforting words help, but they are not enough.
The greatest comfort, whether from a friend or family member, comes from those who have themselves been through crisis. A patient awaiting surgery gets a visit from someone who had had the same surgery. A parent who has lost a child is embraced by another parent who has endured the same loss and anguish. This is comfort with authority, counsel from experience.
Jesus can comfort us in an ultimate sense because he has experienced the full range of human struggle and suffering, to the point of death. When he says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” we hear the voice of one who has endured every kind of suffering imaginable, both physical and psychological, in his own person and in all his relationships. There is no horror or humiliation that he does not understand from the inside. And because he God among us, our Lord and brother, to be with him is to have the ultimate hope in the face of any threat.
Fear is the enemy of faith. How much good was never risked because good people were afraid? How many movements of hate and exclusion might have been stopped early on by a few courageous people who stood up in their communities and said, “This is wrong.” Every corporal work of mercy involves some risk, but how many have been fed, clothed, accompanied and comforted by those who took that risk, overcame their discomfort at plunging in among the needy, the rejected and those labeled as dangerous or unworthy?
So Jesus addresses us in the darkest hour of his own life: “Don’t be afraid. I am right here beside you. Open your heart to me and nothing can truly harm you or separate you from my love.