If only Christ came in Disney packaging ... Do you know what I mean? All Disney movies end with "... and they lived happily ever after" -- if not in explicit word, then certainly in concept. If only our acceptance of Christ came with some sort of guarantee that our life on this earth would be "happily ever after." But it doesn't. The cold, hard truth is that Christ gave us a very different guarantee: "In this life you will have tribulation..." (John 16:33)
During the summer we watched with great joy and awe as many of our Hungarian youth came to Christ. Last week, one of those kids ODed on tranquilizers after getting into some serious trouble at school. Last month, another who was living in a children's home, lost his brother in a knife fight outside a disco. That same week his mother died in hospital. The magnitude of human suffering all around us is staggering. And these few items just scratch the surface of the extraordinary hard knocks we see these new Christians facing.
Life is tough--so unjustly tough it seems at times. But Christ's guarantee did not end with his promise of tribulation. He goes on to say: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." To be honest, I sometimes have a hard time keeping that perspective. I see the tribulation part all around me, but the overcoming part evades me. What's worse is that it seems to evade these young ones.
But maybe that's the whole point. Maybe we need to be in the place where overcoming tribulation seems unfathomable, because that's where genuine faith begins. If faith is truly the being sure of things hoped for and being certain of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), perhaps it is only in our times of tribulation (when we see no evidence of God anywhere near us) that we learn whether we truly have any faith at all. If we do have the faith to push through those tough times, I trust we'll find that although life is indeed tough, God is still good.
Maybe there is a Disney ending out there for all of us, but as Christians our "happily ever after" is guaranteed only in the hereafter, not in the here and now.