Speaking to his disciples after the last supper and before his arrest, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. [As in childbirth] 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” (John 16:20, 22).
This is a time of grief. To be sure we are doing our best to make the most of our time under the ‘stay at home’ directives. There are the hilarious memes about homeschooling, working-from-home attire, and friending our new bestie – the refrigerator – on Facebook, but these days life is emotional, stressful, and in some cases filled with anguish. During this time there has been loss – loss of income and jobs, loss of tempers and direction, loss of routine and normalcy. Some of you have lost loved ones and have not been able to hold appropriate gatherings to share stories and say goodbye. Still others have heard distressing news about a loss of health that makes this time even more uncertain.
As the disciples enter into what will become for them an earth-shattering time, Jesus shows them two realities. First, you will grieve. Second, you will rejoice. The first will in fact give way to the second. And the rejoicing will allow you to endure, to overcome your current burden-filled circumstances, he says. Recently, I read the blog of a friend who has had to take early retirement, at 53, from a high-powered law firm due to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. He quotes David Kessler in his book on grief who writes, “… in grief, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” When we find meaning in the grief or meaning despite the grief, the pain can be transformed.
As with the disciples, their pain was transformed when they came to understand that the loss of Jesus by crucifixion led to his being with them always by way of the Spirit. His death led to their life. His sacrifice led to their eternal freedom. When we let faith reign in our lives – faith that Jesus is who he says he is, faith that he did what he came to do, and faith that he is alive in the world – grief is transformed. The pain is real, but the joy of Jesus overcomes the pain, takes it in, and allows for an even deeper reality than circumstances could ever provide.
Sometimes though it seems like pain is senseless and has no connection to what we believe about the cross and empty tomb. It’s not spiritual or logical; it just seems pointless. While I would argue that everything has a connection to Jesus, grief at times feels this way. “Suffering,” says Kessler, “is the noise our mind makes around that loss, the false stories it tells because it can’t conceive of death [or pain] as random.” Despite the pain, we know that God holds the past, present, and future in his hands. Paul says it this way, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
As I was writing this, I got an email from friends whose daughter-in-law experienced a miscarriage at 37 weeks. Thirty-nine is full term and thousands are born much earlier than this. This is true pain; it seems senseless – without any purpose. I find myself asking, “WHY! did this happen?” Maybe the simplest answer is: because it did … and God is still good and God has made a way for death, pain, and sadness never to touch us again. He has done this for us. As Jesus says to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As we employ our faith … we too can overcome. By his great love, we are overcomers!
A blog dedicated to encouraging you during this quarantine time!