Grief to Joy
Lord, I thank You that though You have departed, Your Spirit remains with me.
Read JOHN 16:16–24
16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How easy do you find waiting for something that you have been promised?
On the face of it, it seems strange that John records this conversation with puzzled disciples (16–19). The phrase “a little while” occurs seven times, and there has been much discussion about precisely what Jesus means here. When will he come back? Is he referring to the resurrection, the
coming of the Spirit or the second coming? Certainly, we can understand their bewilderment and sadness at his announcement. How can their Master’s departure be for their good?
Jesus offers an illustration of a woman in labor whose pain, seen to be eminently worthwhile, is forgotten after the birth (21). This may echo Old
Testament verses which combine a reference to “a little while” with the anticipation of resurrection for God’s people and judgment for God’s enemies (e.g., Isa. 13:6–9). The disciples may be plunged into a brief painful period akin to the moment of birth, but with Jesus’ death and resurrection a new world will be born. John wants us to appreciate that this is not merely a matter
of trouble approaching, but that things will turn out fine in the end. When in a few chapters we come to the cross and then to the resurrection, we’ll encounter a visible indication that God’s new world is really being established—something unique and amazing! Their joy is compounded as the
Holy Spirit descends upon them after Jesus ascends to his Father. This will enhance their prayer life (24) and will deepen their joy.
Suffering that morphs into joy is a familiar theme in the New Testament. For example, Peter stresses how our living hope sustains us in the midst of suffering. (1 Pet. 1:3–7). Pain for the Lord will lead to a joy that no one will take away (22).
Consider how Peter shows how our love and faith should lead us to inexpressible joy, not least through the salvation which is ours through the cross and resurrection (1 Pet. 1:8,9).
Lord, show me that Your purposes transcend my understanding, especially concerning my spiritual development.