Monday, June 3, 2013

Sorrow Turned Into Joy

"Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy."
~ John 16:20 (NKJV)

This world is filled with sorrow—sorrow that runs long and deep and wide. Although the Word of God and faith testify that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28), deepest sorrows bring us to the place where "good" seems inconceivable and joy seems irretrievable. In such a place, we may think the best we can do is hang on and wait for Heaven.

Jesus speaks of a different hope.

"A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world."
~ John 16:21 (NKJV)

After carrying five children, I feel qualified on the subject of labor and childbirth. All five deliveries were thoroughly different experiences, with three common factors.

First, the misery of pregnancy went on for an excruciatingly long time. I stand 5'1" tall (154 cm.) and have a short waist. With little other space to fill, my babies pushed into my chest and against my ribs, making breathing difficult. Three trimesters of nausea didn't help. As I neared the end of nine months, each day became agony.

Then there's the extreme pain of delivery. The first time around, a failed epidural added to pain rather than relieved it, so I opted out of medication the remaining four times. I've heard passing kidney stones is worse than childbirth, but all my kids were bigger than my husband's biggest kidney stone, and he never reached the point of crying and exhaustion and screaming that I did.

The third common factor? Extreme exhilaration utterly obliterated all the preceding anguish. I've done some crazy thrilling stuff like skydiving, rappelling, high-speed driving on a track. But seeing a new human emerge from my own body and draw breath—bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh with a life of its own—? Nothing else comes anywhere close to the elation of giving birth.

In retrospect, all the agony was trivial. Each life is worth exceedingly more than the pain to birth it.

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
~ Psalms 30:5 (NKJV)

When I consider that the Holocaust re-birthed the nation of Israel in 1947, I wonder if anything less could have produced this miracle—a people surviving 1,877 years of exile and returning to their homeland as a sovereign nation. Hostile neighbors have threatened their existence for every one of the sixty-six years since, and the "Day of Jacob's Trouble" lies in the not-too-distant future. Israeli suffering persists. Yet the Jews persevere, their life and land worth the cost after centuries of persecution.

This world is filled with sorrow—sorrow that runs long and deep and wide. Longer than pregnancy, more painful than childbirth.

But just as pregnancy and childbirth are necessary to the resulting joy of a new life, the sorrows of this life are used by God to birth in us the life of His Son. While God is saving the greatest joys for Heaven, He may be relied upon to bring us joy each day on Earth. The people of God can ground our hope on the greatest joys following the greatest sorrows.

This is not a "hope," of the wishing variety. This is the hope, assured by Word of God.

"Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you."
~ John 16:22 (NKJV)

Wherever else it may appear, joy is found in seeing Jesus near us, with us, in us.

God Almighty, Giver of life, You are good and faithful. Through dark nights, please let us feel Your life stirring within us. In the longest last hour, please enable us to persevere unto the first strains of dawn. When we are utterly spent, please carry us through to fullness of joy.

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  1. This reminds me of the verse: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1-2 Even the branches that do bear fruit get pruned, so that they can be even "more" fruitful. I imagine that pruning from God would be painful but necessary.

    1. I can't believe you mentioned that particular verse, Mary. I've been reading and re-reading this section of John, sensing that there's something more for me to see in it. Even now it occurs to me that the branches have about as much ability to help one another bear fruit as sheep have the ability to keep one another safe. None of it happens apart from Jesus, the True Vine, the Good Shepherd.

      My recent prayers have been along the lines of, "Lord, help me want to bear fruit when I feel You pruning; help me know the joy of morning after mourning; help me not be afraid of walking close to You."

      I ask the Lord to richly bless you today, in a new and special way than makes His love manifest to you. ♥


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