“The violent take it by force.”
“Make it stop, make it stop!” A child shoved a phone up at me with an expression of terror. I grabbed the phone and quickly realized that a harmless YouTube video their parents had given them to watch had been interrupted by an ad for a horror movie. I quickly hit the skip button and knelt down by the young kid for a hug and reassurance that it was all just make believe. Peppa Pig had already recaptured their attention before my sentence even finished.
But as I walked away, I wondered if I had just told the truth. Is it all just make believe? The older I get the more realistic some of my favorite scary movies seem. Reading the news in the morning seems like the scariest part of my day – until I get to school and start having conversations with some of our students. Homes filled with heartbreak, hurt, and confusion sometimes seem to drown out the happier moments and I wonder, “Where’s God in all of this?”
Jesus’ disciples wondered the same thing. As John the Baptist sat in prison, and persecution grew more and more severe, they turned their eyes to Jesus, hoping to hear reassurance that happily ever after was just moments away. But Jesus didn’t sugar coat things. He told His disciples, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt 11:12). In other words, “This is nothing new, friends. Satan’s going to use every avenue he has to darken the light and make us think happily ever after is just make believe.”
But the message doesn’t end there. Jesus reminds us where our attention is really to be focused – not on the scary right now, but on the joy of what is to come. It’s easy to wake up, take one look at the world outside and decide that everything has gone to hell in a handbasket. But this is nothing new, friends. The sinful world has always been a scary place, but we know the end of the story and we know He’s coming soon. Until then, will you pray with me?
God, I’m scared far too often, and at times the monsters seem far too real. Teach me to look to you and trust that happily ever after is coming. Amen.
Contributed by Hannah Hayden