In the story of those two men heading to Emmaus (Luke 24), Jesus walks up behind them on that dusty road and asks what the two are discussing.
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” one of them says.
“What things?” Jesus asks.
The men didn’t recognize this guest and go on to tell him about Jesus of Nazareth; his teaching and the powerful miracles he performed, the crucifixion three days ago and the wild stories about an empty tomb, though no one has seen Jesus.
Even when you walk away to wherever Emmaus is for you, a nightclub, the bar, another city, or in the middle of ‘nowhere’, Jesus isn’t far from you. He will meet you on that dusty road in the midst of your troubled heart and ask questions to help you sort out what doesn’t make sense.
We might look for Jesus in a moment of tragedy, an existential experience or at the crossroads in life but often don’t recognize His presence in the midst of our struggles. So you take a walk along a dusty road or have dinner with friends. Maybe you go back to work. When Jesus showed up after His resurrection, it was in these very common places for people.
Eventually there will be questions. Jesus will ask you about where this road is leading and whether it’s enough to keep you satisfied.
Consider it all joy when you go through trials of many kinds. (James 1:4)
Disappointment and defeat are the tools God uses to show you the way. Your difficulties are designed to produce perseverance and build up your faith.
Often we let the trials tear us down, though God means them for our good. Your trials grow you by developing character. We need to have enough courage to live in the struggles.
We’re not going to get to our destination any quicker by worrying, complaining or being frustrated.
When you place your joy in the source of your strength, Jesus, and not in the circumstance. you will survive and even thrive in the struggle. Even in the pain, these conflicts will be counted as your joy for what it is increasing in you, not decreasing.
Don’t let the defeat tear you down. God created you to go from strength to strength in these situations, not a mindset of struggle to struggle.
Lastly, pay attention to your life, to the people, to the things that happen to you. This is how to experience Jesus. Don’t force it by reading into situations too much. Maybe just lean in with your ears when your thoughts want to speak. Or linger a little longer in a place of rest when reminders of the undone pull at your attention.
Here in the hard parts of life, beautiful and terrible things will happen. It’s easier to escape it, but don’t be afraid. Jesus is right there in your midst.