This Life Is Only A 'Little While'

Text: Matthew 16:16-22

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Go for it now, for the future is promised to no one.

Celebrate your life now. Do not wait until it is over.

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you might die.

You only live once, so now is the time to live.

Party now, sleep when you are dead.

Laugh at the odds and live your life to the fullest so that death will be afraid to take you.

These are several of the catchphrases circulating in our modern day and age. And in case you did not pick up on it, all of these slogans have the same thing in common. What they have in common is this: these sayings believe that the present is good whereas the future is bad. That is to say; these slogans view life now as full of success, pleasure, and happiness that need to be seized, whereas the future is full of sorrow, pain, sadness, and death. Simply stated, life goes from good to bad with these catchphrases, because death is the final killjoy! Death is the nail in the coffin – the end of goodness.

But is this necessarily true? Does life go from good to bad?  Does life go from happiness to sorrow? Is this the trajectory that we are on, meaning that we need to seize the moment for tomorrow may never come?

In our Gospel reading, Jesus says quite the opposite. He shares that you Christians will not encounter success, pleasure, and happiness in your life right now, but quite the opposite. You will meet sorrow and distress and pain. Indeed, you will cry and groan with pain in this life. You will hurt in this life. And to make things worse, while you are hurting and suffering, the world will dance and party around you. Indeed, life for the Christian is tough. Life will knock you down and keeps knocking you down. It does not let up. Even the Apostles tell us flat out: “In this world, you will have trouble.” Yes, all kinds of troubles. Your heart will break. You will grow old and begin to fall apart. You will have disappointment and heart-ache and trial upon trial.

The reason why it is like this is that you and I live in what is called the valley of tears. Yes, we live in what is called this valley of tears. You and I enter into this valley at the beginning of our life, and we stay in this valley until our last dying breath. And unlike a pleasant valley, this valley of life is dark. The valley contains hardships, suffering, loss, grief, persecution, and pain. It is a valley that is clouded with gloom, where we experience the attacks of the devil, the struggles with the sinful nature, the persecution of the world, and the sting of death itself.

Perhaps you are wondering at this point if I forgot to take an anti-depressant pill this morning. Or maybe you might be wondering if I am a natural pessimist, seeing the glass as half-empty? No, this is not the case. You see, what I am describing about this valley of tears is reality. This is how things are for you as a Christian in this life – in this valley of tears.  Yes, Jesus says that in this life that you will weep and mourn and that you will have pain. As a Christian you live, breathe, and have movement not on the mountaintops of life, but within the valley, the valley of tears.

I can tell you this, though, we do not like the reality of suffering. We do not like hearing about this valley of tears.  We do not like the darkness. So, we Christians like to pretend that our lives are not in this valley of tears. That is right; we love to avoid the valley of tears at all costs. It makes us uncomfortable, and it goes against the view of the world that things are supposed to be great. So, we try to make peace with the darkness of the valley. We try to turn the lemons of the valley into lemonade. We convince ourselves that we are overcomers. We say, “When we get knocked down, we get up again.” And then when we stand as supposed overcomers, we look into the dark valley of tears, and we roar as if we are invincible.   But we are not.  We are fooling ourselves. 

No matter how hard we try to climb out of the valley of tears or deny it, there is no escape – you Christians are in this valley where the walls are too steep and where it is too dark. No matter how hard you wipe away the tears of hurt, they keep flowing in life – they keep flowing until your last dying breath. No matter how much you try to dull the pain and hurt, it keeps twisting and stabbing you. In this life, the devil continues to attack, the sinful flesh always longs to sin and wreak havoc, and the world continues to spew forth lies. There is no end to this stuff.

So, the reality for you, dear Christians, is that you are not high on a mountaintop, but you are deep in the valley. It is like this because Christ predicted that there would be trials and suffering and pain in this life. He certainly did.  From your birth to your last dying breath, you will experience these hardships, the daily grind, the struggle of the soul, the heaviness of life, the chaos of sin. However, our Lord Jesus Christ also said that this valley of tears would only be a ‘little while.’ In other words, the day is coming that the valley of tears will end and all things will be made anew. Yes, sadness lasts only ‘a little while’ and then will change into gladness. All grief lasts just ‘a little while’ and then is swallowed up in the end. Pain last only ‘a little while’ and will be remembered no more. You see, life does not go from good to bad. But rather, it is the other way around, it goes from bad to good, and it only takes ‘a little while.’ 

Dear Baptized Christians, learn to say these words to yourself: ‘A little while.’ Yes, when the shadows of the valley of tears press in upon you, say, ‘a little while,’ because you know that in a little while it will all be over. It will all be over soon because Jesus promises to see you in His kingdom. After a little while, Jesus will wipe away the tears from all eyes, and He will heal all the hurt. After a little while, He will give eternal joy to you. You see, because you are baptized in Christ, you are a Christian, and as a Christian, you wait for the Lord, you know that there is an end to the pain of the valley of tears. You know that at the end of the valley there will be no suffering, but there will be the unspeakable joy of seeing Jesus and Him seeing you, as He pulls you from this valley of tears to His eternal goodness.  Yes, in death the Lord pulls you to Himself and will resurrect you to eternal life. And when He does, oh, the laughter and unending joy. It will fill your heart and make you dance, and it will cause you to laugh and sing for eternity.

Dear Baptized Saints, do not lose heart and do not grow faint this day. Do not panic and do not fret. Be still this hour and be still at this moment; hear right now. The valley of tears does not last forever; there is an end to the valley. There is an end to the tears, an end to the suffering, an end to the persecution, an end to sin, an end to pain, and an end to the devil. It is only a little while. Be patient, wait it out, take courage!

And as you wait it out, dear Baptized Saints, to get you through, the Lord gives you His Word and Sacraments. Therefore, cling to the promises of God’s Word – the promises that are for you. Hang your body and soul upon His Word. Continually receive the Sacrament of the Altar – that is given and shed for you. Remember your Baptisms – where God’s name was placed upon your head and heart, marking you as one of the redeemed. Patiently endure any misfortune, while comforting yourself with the truth that the Lord is with you. He does not abandon you in the valley. Yes, comfort yourself with Jesus’ Word that this life is only a ‘little while.’ Know that as tough as it gets in this life that the Lord holds not only the beginning but the end of this world.

Baptized Saints, hang on!. It is just a little while. And then you will see Jesus face to face where your sorrows, sadness, and pain will be turned into joy.   

In the name of Jesus Christ: Amen.

CLICK HERE to 'Like' on Facebook
CLICK HERE to 'Follow' on Twitter
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on iTunes
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on Podbean