Scripture informs us that Jesus, being fully human, shared in all our human experiences (Hebrews 4:15), including feeling the whole range of human emotions. Though Jesus felt all that we feel, the emotion the Gospel writers most frequently ascribe to Jesus is troubled (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33; John 11:33; 12:27; 13:21). I find that interesting. He most likely felt other emotions more often; yet Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John don’t take pains to let us know about them. But they routinely alert us to Jesus’ feeling troubled. Why?
To understand, we have to look at the context for the emotion—the events that precipitate his feeling it. In each case, Jesus feels troubled when observing the consequences of sin. At Lazarus’ tomb, watching his friends weep in grief at their brother’s untimely death, he is “deeply moved in spirit,” which suggests intense anger—even rage—at how sin has ravaged humanity. And he feels “troubled,” which comes from the Greek word “to stir.” Witnessing our pain, suffering, grief, and death stirs Jesus to the depths of his soul.
This comforts me in a time of crisis, because it reminds me that witnessing the suffering of others should stir my soul. Though I have every confidence that God will use this for good, that doesn’t make the suffering itself good. It isn’t. It is an indignity against God, the result of the enemy’s deception and the consequences of sin unleashed on God’s image-bearers. This—death, suffering, pain—isn’t the way things are supposed to be. And it is right for you and me to feel troubled when we acknowledge that.
You may have noticed that John uses this word more than the other Gospel writers. In fact, he records it an additional two times in Jesus’ farewell speech to his disciples. In both cases, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1, 27). Wait, what? Jesus felt it, and now he tells us not to feel it? What is going on!
I think Jesus is telling us we don’t have to live in a state of perpetual trouble, even though we live in a world of perpetual suffering. We know the hope we have in Jesus. We know the victory he has won for us, how he has triumphed over sin and death and suffering and all the rest. We know a day is coming when “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”
When you look around the world today, you will and should feel troubled. But when you look to Jesus—to God reigning in all wisdom, goodness, power, and love—you don’t need to let your heart sit there. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).