I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.John 16:20
The concern of the disciples is how long Jesus' absence is going to last. Jesus had said,
In a little while you will see me no more, and his disciples had immediately picked up on that phrase
a little while. Their hearts clutched with fear, they said to themselves,
How long does He mean? Their attention is on that as well as on His words,
because I am going to the Father. They said,
Why does this have to happen? What does He mean, 'because I am going to the Father'? You can see that the focus of their concern is on when and why.
If you and I had been there, that is exactly what we would have asked! We are always concerned about how long a trial is going to last and wondering why we have to go through it. Are these not the questions we inevitably ask whenever we have trouble--
How long? But when Jesus answers the troubled disciples, He ignores the whole matter of time. His answer stresses the process and the result that is certain to follow. Jesus isn't concerned with the
How long? but with the
How? and the
What? He makes clear to them that a period of sorrow is inevitable. He cannot spare them from it. There will be a time when they will weep and lament and be in sorrow and when the world around will be rejoicing.
But, He says,
your sorrow will be turned into joy. How long it takes is not significant; the inevitable result is the important thing.
That is a very important lesson to learn. I've been saying to the Lord,
How long do I have to go through this? And the Lord's emphasis is strictly upon what is coming at the end, the joy that is certain. To illustrate this, our Lord used the beautiful figure of childbirth. When a baby is being dedicated, the face of the mother is a picture of joy. What causes the joy? The baby. Yet a few weeks earlier that same mother was in anguish and pain. And what was causing the pain? The baby. In other words, the same thing that caused the sorrow would later be the cause of the joy.
That is different from what we usually think. Most of us assume that our sorrow is going to be replaced by joy. But the promise of Jesus is that the very thing that caused sorrow is also going to be the cause of joy. That is a revelation of one of the great principles that marks authentic Christianity, one of the ways by which our Lord works in our life. He takes the very thing that causes us heartache and sorrow and turns it into a cause of joy.
You work in such wonderful ways, Lord. I trust that You will take that which brings sorrow in my life and make it a source of joy.
In times of difficulty, do we focus on how long our trial will last? How can our very sorrow produce joy?