Yesterday's lectionary gospel included these famous words of Jesus. Usually read as a command (presumably reflecting a Greek 'imperative', I didn't check), yesterday I played around a little with the idea that what Jesus was actually saying was softer, more along the lines of "I really don't want you to experience this heart-sick, gut-wrenching, sleep-denying agony of grief, loss and hopelessness" and that he did so having experienced, and possibly still experiencing, it himself...
Firstly, John 11 and the story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. As Jesus stood at the grave and realised the gravity of the situation, the grief of the sisters, the loss of Lazarus, the human consequences of his own tardiness, his heart was troubled; indeed so overwhelmed was he that he wept.
Or in John 13, immediately after the foot-washing as he declared that one of his own would betray him, we are told once more that he was troubled in spirit... when would it happen, how would it happen…
It seems to me that Jesus knows exactly what it is he wants to counter. The dry mouth, the feeling in the pit of the stomach, the numbess, the disbelief, the anger, the bewilderment, the certain uncertainy, the agony, the sleeplessness... For me, that is incredibly comforting and reassuring.
And in the midst of his own agony and helplessness, to all intents and purposes a dying man, he says to those closest to him, 'it'll be all right, please don't agonise over this or me, I'm just going on ahead of you...'
The image of many dwellings, many abodes within the range of the Father's estate, is a beautiful and hopeful one. Of course believing (in) Jesus doesn't stop us experiencing fear or grief or anxiety, but it does rob them off their power to overwhelm us. In the that 'tracing rainbows through the rain' way we can cling, even if only by our finger nails, to the hope he offers.
Do not let grief, worry, fear, loss, anxiety... whatever it is... overwhelm you: trust me when I say that I am going ahead to make all things ready for you. None of this has the last word, and one day, all will be well.