Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter
In the 16th chapter of John, we find Jesus preparing His disciples for what is to come. He paints a picture of the suffering they will endure (v16:2) and He tells them that, though He is going away, He will send a Helper, the Holy Spirit (vrs16:7-15). Then in verse 16:20 (ESV) He says, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow (grief in some versions) will turn into joy.”
Depending on how you read this one verse, you will either find the comfort Jesus intended, or you will miss it. What if you take His words to mean, “You will have sorrow for a time, then that time will end and you will have a time of joy.”? There may be some comfort in knowing that the suffering and sorrow has an end; that it doesn’t need to last forever. But this alone falls way short of the comfort Jesus intended. After all, why do we have to go through the hard and painful part? Why not just go straight to the joy?
Notice that Jesus did not say, “Your sorrow will be replaced with joy.” No, He said, “your sorrow will be turned into joy.” That little phrase “will turn into” is a key to understanding what Jesus is saying. It is translated from the Greek word, “ginomai’, which literally means to cause, become or arise. It is related to the word “gen”-erate. What Jesus is saying here is that joy will arise from sorrow. The sorrow is the soil from which the joy emerges.
Is it possible to have joy without sorrow? Maybe so, maybe not. Books have been written on the subject of suffering and sorrow. It is outside the scope of this devotional to answer that question. But one thing is clear; the joy that Jesus is talking about here is actually connected to the sorrow. There is a purpose for your sorrow. It is not in vain. It will not be wasted. It will result in something amazing and eternal.
Jesus then uses a perfect example to illustrate. “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” – John 16:21. I have talked to a number of women who have let me know that, as a man, I could never ever begin to imagine the pain of childbirth. But I have never talked to the mother of a newborn who said it wasn’t worth the pain.
The words of Jesus in this passage are for you, and at the same time, for the whole body of Christ. The final discourse of Jesus in the upper room was very personal, but it was also intended for the Church, which was about to be born and then spread throughout the earth. He was letting his followers know that things were going to get messy, and they weren’t always going to get it right. But that we should take heart, because God is so great that He will even use our failure and pain to bring about His glory and our good.
Are you going through a tough time? If so, then perhaps you would be comforted by the words of Jesus spoken to His disciples just before His arrest; just before their world would be turned upside down, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
July 30, 2013 at 6:25 pm
Excellent commentary, Fred. Thanks for your insight into this passage.