Sorrow Turned to Joy
Jesus’ discourse is coming to a close. So he tells his disciples that, “a little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” This apparently confused the disciples who spoke amongst themselves about this saying, but not to Jesus. (It’s humorous how the disciples, like schoolboys, often refrain from asking Jesus direct questions out of fear, I presume, of being thought stupid.) So Jesus asks them if they are questioning among themselves the meaning of his statement. He then answers by comparing what he said to a woman in labor who, though in anguish while giving birth, is overjoyed afterwards when she holds her baby. Likewise, the disciples will soon be filled with sorrow while the world rejoices, but their sorrow will be turned to joy, which no one will be able to take from them. So what does this mean?
The most obvious answer is that Jesus is referring to his resurrection which will be soon after his crucifixion. As we know from the gospels, the disciples were scared out of their wits Friday, Saturday, and until early Sunday morning. But the resurrection of their Lord changed everything, turning them from a band of cowards to the very foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20), men who later gave their lives for the faith.
And though that is the most likely meaning, I am not opposed to extending the meaning to ourselves in the twenty-first century. Indeed, Jesus words, “because I am going to my Father,” require us to apply them to ourselves. As Jesus has said multiple times now, he was returning to his Father (to be our mediator at the right hand in heaven) so that the Holy Spirit may come (to be our Helper, Comforter, Advocate, and Guide in the here and now). And this is a reason to rejoice. Oh, we like to think that being with Jesus in the flesh would be just the thing to get us through. But if we can’t get along with the Holy Spirit living inside of us, then how should we get along with Jesus bodily living outside of us? The Day of Pentecost is a joyful day for Christians as it was on that day that the Spirit descended upon the Church.
In another way, we know we struggle everyday with various trials and tribulations. Because we are in the world, it is natural that we should have more sorrows than joys. But we know our inheritance, and we know the one who has gone to prepare a place for us where there will be neither sin nor crying anymore. So joy does come to us after sorrow, each and every day.