Joy in the Darkness

John 16:17-24
16“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

My heart goes out to the Disciples as they are listening to the words of Jesus. He speaks to them of the events that are within hours and none of it is good news. His words are of separation, loss, and sorrow. But He is Jesus. He loves them and even though the immediate future holds pain He also has words of hope and joy for them. Their sorrow will not last and it will be replaced with unspeakable joy.

The problem with sorrow and pain is that when you are experiencing them there seems to be no end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Jesus' example of the birth of a child is incredibly apt and almost universally relatable (although I doubt if the men can fully grasp the illustration – sorry guys). My first birthing experience took 40 hours. Let me just say, 40 hours seemed like 40 days when I was stuck in the middle. I can remember telling my husband that I thought maybe we could just go home for a while and come back to complete this process at a later time. I just wanted it to be over and while I was completely excited for the birth of my first child I had no idea that in that moment I would be radically transformed. You don’t know about that until it happens. You can’t know about that until it happens. You can only hear about it. Every new parent talks about it because in that instant you are forever changed. That is exactly what Jesus is promising to the Disciples. But they don’t get it. They are stuck in their pain and they have no life experience that will prepare them for what is coming. And that’s totally okay. Their lack of understanding doesn’t negate the truth of Jesus’ words.

Maybe you are in a place of deep pain today. If so, my prayers go up for you that God would do what He did for the Disciples – send the Holy Spirit to comfort you, sustain you, and bring you that unexplainable joy. The promise He made to those guys is real for us too. That same Holy Spirit is ever present to lift you up, carry your pain, and walk with you through the sorrow. If you are not in a place of great pain today – praise God. But in these good times it is wise to allow your heart to be instructed so that you are assured of God’s presence and power to care for you when sorrow strikes – for it will. You’ll notice that Jesus didn’t say “you won’t experience the pain” because that would have been a lie. The presence of sin in the world means that there is pain in the world. But we take Jesus’ words to heart and accept the fact that there is also great joy in the world because God has made all thing right through the blood of Jesus. We are always sustained through the pain only to find that there is joy on the other side because of Jesus.