Can we just admit that life is hard?
Can we stop hiding our sorrow and pain and struggles and difficulties and let people in on what’s going on?
I truly believe that if we did, we’d all be better for it.
Because no one-really, truly no one-is spared from some kind of problem. And for many of us, it has nothing to do with our own choices. It’s visited upon us from the outside.
It comes out of nowhere, happens fast and suddenly consumes every aspect of our lives.
If you are a believer in Jesus, you might think you should be immune to these hardships. You might do a quick calculation and decide that, on balance, you’ve led a pretty decent life and certainly God should notice and spare you and yours from awful tragedy.
Or you might look around and notice all those who leave hurt and heartache in their wake and wonder why they seem to live a charmed life while death and destruction have visited yours.
No matter how you try to disguise it, death is a hard pill to swallow.
Jesus didn’t deny that.
Today’s verses are some of the most poignant in His long discourse to the disciples as He was preparing them for His death.
Jesus knew they had questions to ask of Him, so He approached them.John 16: 19-24 VOICE
Jesus: Are you trying to figure out what I mean when I say you will see Me in a little while? 20 I tell you the truth, a time is approaching when you will weep and mourn while the world is celebrating. You will grieve, but that grief will give birth to great joy. 21-22 In the same way that a woman labors in great pain during childbirth only to forget the intensity of the pain when she holds her child, when I return, your labored grief will also change into a joy that cannot be stolen.
23 When all this transpires, you will finally have the answers you have been seeking. I tell you the truth, anything you ask of the Father in My name, He will give to you. 24 Until this moment, you have not sought after anything in My name. Ask and you will receive so that you will be filled with joy.
Notice that Jesus didn’t wait for his disciples to approach Him with their questions. Out of compassion and love, He approached THEM.
He does the same with us today.
Many of the questions I’ve struggled with since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven are answered in Scripture.
That’s why it is so, so important to read my Bible. Some days I use a concordance to help me find pertinent verses, sometimes the Holy Spirit brings them to mind. Not every question will be answered this side of eternity. But at the least I am reminded of God’s faithful love and trustworthy character.
Jesus begins by asserting what He knows is true but wants them to affirm: “You’ve got some questions, don’t you?”
Then He acknowledges their pain. He doesn’t shy away from saying that things will feel unfair. It will appear as though evil has won and the Kingdom of God defeated.
But then He offers hope.
Their grief will ultimately turn to joy.
I think this joy is twofold-they had a taste of it when Jesus revealed Himself as Risen Savior during the forty days after the resurrection. But the fullness of that joy for them, like us, is only available in eternity.
Childbirth as analogy for this life leading into the next is so helpful!
When laboring to bring forth a baby, no one knows for sure how long that terrible pain will last. In the middle of it, more than one mama has thought (and sometimes said or screamed), “I don’t want to do this!”
But that same mama, when handed her precious child, often bursts into joyous tears that wash away the memory of how impossible it all seemed just moments before.
How many of us would gladly go through every moment of pain to have our child back in our arms?
No woman is pregnant forever.
Sooner or later that baby will be born.
This life of travail won’t last forever either.
By death or transformation, we will be freed from this earthly tent. The worn out and worn down will be restored and renewed.
One day-one glorious Day-I will have every answer I seek.
Jesus says, “when I return” and “when this transpires” their grief will turn to joy.
I have a foretaste of ultimate joy in the comfort, ministry and companionship of the Holy Spirit. But I cannot know fullness of joy until Jesus returns.
And that joy will overwhelm every heartache.
- Can you relate to the disciples’ fear of asking Jesus their questions? Why or why not?
- Do you have a concordance? Do you know how to use it? Have you ever looked up verses when you had a specific question?
- Just as it’s really impossible to describe both the intensity of the pain of childbirth and the intensity of the joy of holding your baby, it’s impossible for us to fully comprehend how the pain of this life will eventually be swallowed up by joy in eternity. Write 3 ways you think this is a good analogy. How might this help you hold onto hope in the long “labor” of life while waiting for “delivery” on God’s promises?
- I admit I’m impatient for some of the answers to my questions. I have to remind my heart that no amount of time will seem long in comparison to what waits for me. How do you help your heart make peace with the idea that many, many years may stretch before you without answers?
- C.S. Lewis was a gifted writer and faithful follower of Jesus. Read the quote above slowly, repeatedly and thoughtfully. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
Lord, You do not despise my questions.
You don’t expect me to transcend my frail human understanding. When I bring my questions to You, you may not give me the answer I seek but You always give me mercy, grace and more of Yourself.
Help me hold onto the word picture You shared with Your disciples. No labor lasts forever. I can rest assured that however long life lasts for me on earth, it will be but the tiniest blip in light of eternity. Agony here-yes, and often more than I think I can bear. But joy unspeakable is waiting!
Thank You for the hope I have in Jesus. Thank You for Your grace.
Give me strength to endure no matter how hard it may become. Help me finish strong and enter Heaven with “Hallelujah!” on my lips.