"Your job is about to be terminated."
"I want out of this marriage!"
"Sir, I'm from the highway patrol. I'm here about your son..."
Life-altering tragedy usually arrives encased in a simple sentence. Crushing heartache doesn't fit into human terminology. How can simple alphabet letters cut like that? But they do.
And it's worse if you've been forwarned. You know it's coming. You brace for it or try to hide from it. Terror stalks your nights as you try to imagine getting through it.
When Jesus spoke to the church at Smyrna, in Revelation 2, He was giving them a heads-up about what had already started and would get worse. He clears away any doubt when he tells them "I know you are suffering and it will get worse." But he doesn't stop there.
"It won't last long and if you hang in there with Me, I will shower you with rewards!"
If you've ever been in labor, you can more easily understand this. As bad as it is, and as long as it may take, there is still hope. You know it won't last forever and when it's over, the joy of holding your child will blot out what you just went through.
We need to look at our troubles that way. At the time, they seem to last forever. In the midst of the pain, we cannot remember peace. While treading murky waters, we cannot remember dry ground. Was there ever a time I didn't feel like this? Will our life ever be normal again?
Jesus offers hope to his precious ones who are suffering for His sake, in what often feels like pointless trauma. It's not pointless. He knows every groan you've muffled, every tear you shed. And He's cheering for you. It's necessary testing. Those who refuse to bear up under it are not His. He is cleaning house, ridding the churches of those hangers-on who only show up for the free food.
And the reward He offers for enduring temporary suffering will so far outshine the pain we won't even remember it. Even death shouldn't scare us because He's waiting on the other side to hold us, wipe our tears away, and shower us with rewards for being faithful.
"Hold on! It won't last long," is His cry from the stands. "You can do it. I did it for you."
So no matter what you're going through right now, no matter how bleak this New Year may appear, and no matter how painful it is at the moment, hang on. Remain faithful to the One who called you.
If you are His, He is yours. And He sent you a message to encourage you: "You can overcome even this. I showed you how. I'm here with you and I reward loyalty."