A lot of things make me afraid these days. We’re coming out of a long stretch of isolation, confusion, and threat as a nation and world. Nearly every week, I find myself holding my breath when my phone rings and I know the call is coming from my kids’ school. Please don’t let it be another positive COVID case, I silently pray.
We have lived with considerable uncertainty these last few years, but that uncertainty is not new. We’re just more aware of it now. If anything, the pandemic has shown us what has been true all along: life is scary and unpredictable. Some of us knew it more acutely than others before the world shut down. We lived with a deep awareness that our lives could change in an instant. But all of us now know—nothing is promised, everything is unstable.
Then we add political unrest, church disunity, and global crises to our catalog of things to be fearful about. Where do we go with all our fears? I’ve asked this question more than ever in recent months. But I’m not the first follower of Jesus to be afraid—and I probably won’t be the last.
In John 14, Jesus is surrounded by fearful disciples. He has just told them he’s going to leave, and they can’t conceive of how that’s a good thing. He’s preparing to die a horrible and painful death. In these moments of being misunderstood by his friends and staring down the barrel of death, he cares for his fearful friends. And in caring for them, he cares for us in our fears, too.
There are two things that can heighten fear in my mind: feeling like I have no place and feeling alone. Jesus speaks to those fears in John 14.
He Prepares a Place for Us
In John 13, Jesus tells the disciples that he’s going away. He tells them of coming trouble and the temptation they will face to deny him. Against this backdrop of confusion, he says in chapter 14, “Don’t let your heart 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 am going to prepare a place for you?” (vv. 1–2).
Essentially he tells them: “Don’t be afraid. I’m leaving you because I’m going to get your home ready.” These disciples are about to face an angry mob that will label them outsiders. These disciples are about to launch a movement centered on the resurrected Christ that leads many to faith but also leads many to rage against them. They will know that this world is not their home. But Jesus tells them, “That’s okay because I’m getting a better one ready for you.”
In this polarizing age, Christians are increasingly homeless. We don’t fit in secular culture, and some of us feel that we fit less in our churches and denominations. Regardless of our passion for the gospel, few enjoy being persecuted and marginalized. We have an ingrained desire to be liked and welcomed. It’s frightening when we feel homeless—both inside and outside the church.
We might not have a place here, but this world is passing away.
But Jesus comforts us with these words. We might not have a place here, but this world is passing away.
We do have a place in the world that has no end. He’s gone ahead of us to get it ready. And in his Father’s house, there’s room for all who are in Christ.
He Never Leaves Us
Before leaving his disciples and ascending to the Father, Jesus makes a promise: “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you” (John 14:18). This verse has comforted me on more than one occasion in my struggle with fear. An orphan is one who doesn’t have a Father. An orphan doesn’t have protection or assurance of safety. Jesus is saying, “This is not you. You have a Father. You have a family. You have a home.”
But when Jesus leaves, who comes in his place? The Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Jesus leaves earth to prepare a place for us, but the Holy Spirit comes to make his home inside us (John 14:23). No matter how alone we feel in our fears, Christ’s promise here in John 14 assures us that we are never alone—not even for a moment. We may not have friends and family around us in our hour of greatest need, but we have the God of the universe. With him, we are never alone.
The prevailing theme in the Gospel of John is belief. John even tells us at the end of the book that his entire purpose for writing is that we would believe (20:31). But he doesn’t want us to believe in some nebulous idea or specific truth claims. He wants us to believe in a person. He wants us to believe that Jesus is who he says he is—he’s the Christ, the son of the living God. Why is it so important to John that we believe?
But John doesn’t just want us to believe in some nebulous idea or specific truth claims. He wants us to believe in a person.
Because by believing we have life in Jesus’s name (John 20:31).
There are a lot of things to fear in this world. The thought of losing our status, our reputation, our money, our health, our friends, our church, or our family causes our hearts to race. But in Jesus Christ, we have eternal life. And that can never be taken away.
This hope carries us when all we see are frightening things. Jesus is getting our home ready in heaven, and while we wait for that day, he indwells us by his Spirit. There is no gap in his presence in our lives. Do you believe it?