Question: "What does it mean to let not your heart be troubled in John 14:1?"
Answer: In John 14:1, Jesus tells His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (ESV). As always, the meaning of any particular passage of Scripture can only be ascertained by understanding the context. So we will back up and take a look at what leads up to Jesus’ command to “let not your heart be troubled.”
In John 12, Jesus tells the crowds (including the disciples) that He would be crucified. In John 13, in the intimate setting of a Passover meal, the meal that later became known as “the Last Supper,” Jesus tells His disciples that one of them would betray Him. He then goes on to tell Peter that he will deny and disown the Lord. Obviously, all of this was upsetting news to the disciples.
After the Last Supper, before He is arrested, Jesus assures His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). The information that He goes on to communicate, about heaven and about the Holy Spirit, is the antidote to the disturbing information that they have taken in.
When Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He was comforting His disciples, who definitely had troubled hearts. Jesus promises them that His death will not be the end, and Peter’s denial will not be the end for Peter, either. He explains that His death and subsequent ascension into heaven, rather than leaving them destitute, will bring about two specific blessings: it will enable Him to prepare a place for them, and it will allow Him to send the Holy Spirit to comfort them.
When Jesus said He was going to “prepare a place” for the disciples, He was speaking of His death (John 14:3). We should not imagine that Jesus has been “building heaven” for the last 2,000 years and that it is still “under construction.” Rather, His words mean that His death was the preparation for us to receive a place in the Father’s house. It is ready now.
As part of allaying the disciples’ fears, Jesus also promised that, when He did leave the earth, He would send the Holy Spirit to the disciples and to all believers. Throughout John chapters 15 and 16, Jesus speaks of the disciples’ victory over the world by the power of the Spirit. The book of Acts gives the historical fulfillment of these promises as believers, in the power of the Spirit, took the gospel to the world. The Spirit is still at work in all believers today.
The admonition “do not let your hearts be troubled” was spoken specifically to the disciples in the face of Jesus’ impending death. Believers today are not in the same specific situation, but the admonition still applies. We should not let our hearts be troubled by anxiety or worry about Jesus’ care and plan for us.
When we face trouble, we may think that, if only Jesus were here with us, in person, standing beside us so that we could talk face to face, we could get through the trial. We are tempted to think that we could trust Him better if He were visible and in the flesh. When we begin to have these thoughts, we need to let our hearts be comforted by two key facts: Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for us to be welcomed into the Father’s house, so we are children of the King; and the Holy Spirit lives in us to help us, if we will yield ourselves to His leading. When we rest in the salvation that Jesus provided and rely on the Holy Spirit to help us navigate the dangerous world around us, we can keep from being troubled in our hearts.