Why Does Jesus Promise ‘In This World You Will Have Trouble’ in John 16:33?

There isn’t a human being alive on this planet who isn’t acquainted with troubles. Times of difficulty arrive unexpectedly, often remain indefinitely, and the sorrowful memories they produce take deep root in the mind. It is no wonder, then, why Jesus’s promise in John 16:33 also takes deep root in the minds and hearts of so many Christians: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

This comforting verse is found within a larger section in the Gospel of John. Chapters 13-17 make up what theologians refer to as the Farewell Discourse. These are Jesus’s final words of reassurance, comfort, and encouragement to his disciples in the upper room before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. 

In chapter 16, he speaks to them of his impending death and departure, as well as their desertion. In John 16:32, Jesus tells them, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” 

Certainly, this must have been disconcerting for the disciples to hear, which is why Jesus immediately followed up with his comforting words in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

In this verse, we see two certain realities: 1) the followers of Jesus will suffer great distress, and 2) Jesus has already won the victory. He didn’t want his disciples to be under the delusion that their future ministry would be full of ease and comfort, and he doesn’t want us to think that either. 

Following Christ is difficult and there will be opposition. Yet, the reality of Christ’s victory over sin and death via his own death and resurrection provides peace and courage in the midst of that opposition. 

In Which Bible Version Does Jesus Say ‘Take Heart, I Have Overcome the World?’

The specific phrase, “Take Heart, I Have Overcome the World,” is found in both the New International Version and the English Standard Version. Other English versions render it slightly differently. “Take Heart” (Greek: tharseite) can also be rendered as “take courage” (NASB) or “be courageous” (CSB). The classic rendering of the KJV is “be of good cheer.” The word “overcome” (Greek: nenikeika) could also be translated “conquered” (CSB, NRSV). 

Jesus’s claim of victory over the world is in reference to his death, burial, and resurrection. Earlier, in John 12:31, Jesus stated that his crucifixion would conquer and cast out the “ruler of this world.” Elsewhere, Hebrews 2:14-15 says that Jesus came to earth “so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” 

The finished work of Christ removes the teeth from suffering. By entering into our world and suffering alongside of us, Jesus offers certain hope that transcends the temporal sorrow and suffering this world throws at his followers. 

Therefore, we are not called to overcome the world ourselves because Jesus already did. He provides his children with a certain future — a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” and “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (2 Peter 1:3-4). It is because of this reality that we can “take heart” and “be of good courage.”  

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/BartekSzewczyk

How Are Christians Invited to Live in Light of John 16:33?

The certainty of trouble applies, not only to Jesus’s disciples, but to all who follow him. The Apostle Paul stated bluntly in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Anyone who claims that believing in Jesus brings financial prosperity, physical health, and perfect relationships hasn’t read his Bible. Life is tough and the Christian life is often tougher. The Bible, far from dodging this fact, acknowledges it and embraces it. Jesus himself guaranteed it. And instead of promising to eliminate trouble from our lives, Jesus instead promises to give peace and comfort in the midst of trouble. 

An appropriate way to respond to Jesus’s words in John 16:33 is to ask, “What do I hope in?” 

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Could it be that troubles and trials make our heart sick because we are placing our hope in that which does not satisfy—a job, a relationship, a position? Christ calls us, not to place our hope in temporal, uncertain things, but in his eternal victory over sin and death on the cross of Calvary. As one commentator states, “It is the victory of God that the Christian celebrates, knowing that all enemies (past, present, and future) have already been defeated, even death itself” [1]

This is why Jesus exhorts us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:20-21)

If your treasure and your hope is not in Christ, than his encouragement to “take heart” in John 16:33 will mean little to you. But if your hope is in Christ, then rest assured that no trouble or trial in this life will take that hope away from you. 

What Are the Two Principle Lessons of John 16:33?

As we have seen, the two lessons from John 16:33 are: 1) Count on trouble and, 2) take courage in Christ’s victory. In many ways, this is the essence of the Christian life. We should never be shocked or surprised when trials come our way. As the Apostle Peter says, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12

It’s also important to know that true and lasting courage must be based in an assurance, not in ourselves, but in Christ. Whenever Jesus uttered the phrase, “Take heart” or “be of good courage,” he always backed it up with an assurance regarding his own work. [2] 

Therefore, we are called to take heart, not in our own abilities or will power, but in the finished work of Jesus. 

Are There More Bible Verses about Overcoming Trouble?

Scripture is filled with assurances of peace amidst trials and the courage to persist through them. Consider these other passages: 

James 1:2-12

1 Corinthians 10:13

Romans 5:1-5

Romans 8:31-39

Hebrews 12:3-13

A Prayer to ‘Take Heart’ in the Midst of Your Troubles

Dear Father, 

Thank you for offering peace and courage in the midst of trials. The troubles I’m facing did not catch you by surprise, neither are they outside of your control. Help me to take heart in the midst of my trouble by remembering your finished work. You have defeated the ultimate enemy, and even though this trial is painful, I know that it will not separate me from your love. In fact, you promise to strengthen me through it. 

 Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your Son to enter into human suffering and conquer death forever. You are a good and faithful God, and I praise you for giving me incorruptible, unfading inheritance. 

 Help me to place my hope, not in the things of this world, but in you and you alone. 

 In Jesus's name, Amen. 

Take Heart, Christian—Jesus Has Already Won the Ultimate Victory

If you’re facing trials right now, you can have joy while your tears flow. You can rejoice in the midst of pain. You can be courageous even when your strength fails. Because your Savior, Jesus Christ, took on your sorrow, pain, and weakness. Most importantly, he took your sin and nailed it to his cross. Now, even your darkest struggle is part of his good plan to draw you closer to him. This trial can’t remove you from his love. 

[1] Klink, Edward, John in Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Edited by Clinton Arnold. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016. 704. 
[2] Grundmann, “tharasso,” in TDNT, Vol. III. Edited by Gerhard Kittel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 26. 

Aaron Berry is a co-author for the Pursuing the Pursuer Blog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Aaron currently resides in Allen Park, MI with his wife and daughter, where he serves in his local church and recently completed an MDiv degree at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Digitalskillet

Aaron Berry is a co-author for the Pursuing the Pursuer Blog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Aaron currently resides in Allen Park, MI with his wife and two children, where he serves in his local church and recently completed an MDiv degree at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.


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