How do you understand your life? Why has it turned out so differently from what you imagined? What do you make of its randomness? The phone rings, and you have no idea what is coming. It could be great news! It could be an old friend getting back in touch! Maybe you won a car! Or it could be something much different.

I went to get a mammogram with one of my girlfriends. She suggested we go together so that we actually would go, and then we could celebrate having it over by going out to lunch. We did. A week later when I next saw her, I asked, “Did you get your clean-bill-of-health letter?” She didn’t get that letter. She got a phone call. And another mammogram. And a biopsy. And the battle for her life. I came out as normal, and she came out with stage IV breast cancer. It felt like our two names had been put in a hat, and this time her name was drawn.

In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world, you will have trouble.” Is he not the master of understatement?

Christianity is not a promise to enjoy a life without pain nor to be given a shortcut through it. It is a promise that pain, sorrow, sin—ours and others—will not swallow us, destroy us, define us, or have the final word. Jesus has won the victory. And in him so have we.

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