Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
“Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world
will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come.
But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish
because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.
So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts
will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
During some of the darkest days of my late wife Melodee’s battle with cancer I would find myself needing encouragement. That’s when I would make a “pastoral call” to Hazel. She was the oldest member of our congregation, someone who had outlived all of her children and grandchildren. Visiting Hazel to encourage her I was probably the one most encouraged. On one particular day I learned so much from her as she told me she was praying joy for Melodee and me. She acknowledged we were going through a difficult time, but said that as God’s children we were entitled to experience the joy Jesus had promised. Looking at Hazel’s joyous countenance I knew she spoke the truth. Joy is the promise of our Savior, the fruit of the Spirit within us, and not the fruit of our circumstances (Galatians 5:22).
At this point in Jesus’ conversation, His disciples are reeling. They are grieving Jesus’ announcement of His departure. They are shaken at the thought of persecution. They do not grasp what Jesus means by going to the Father much less sending them the Holy Spirit. They feel overwhelmed and frightened.
Jesus listens to their grief and confusion but assures them that it will all be turned to joy: “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Jesus compares their coming joy to the joy of a new mother, the joy they will experience when Jesus sees them.
There is something in Jesus’ words that I had missed for years. Namely, Jesus does not attribute their joy to seeing Jesus, but their joy will come from Jesus seeing them: “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice.” The one who loves us infinitely sees us and knows what we are going through. This speaks of Jesus’ “perfect knowledge, of His loving care, of His tender, compassionate, complacent, ever-watchful eye resting upon us, in order that He may communicate to us all needful good.” (Alexander Maclaren, John)
You know what this is about. When you really love someone, there is the greatest joy in that person’s glance and your answering gaze. The joys of the world are so short-lived and fleeting, but all who follow the crucified Lord know His promise is sure: “no one will take your joy from you.”
Canon Andrew White is known as the Vicar of Baghdad. He was the pastor of the largest church in the Iraqi capitol during the Iraq War, the rise of Isis, and the resulting persecution of Christians. He tells how visitors from America would say, “This is the happiest church we have ever seen! How can that be?” Church members would joyfully explain: “When you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have. And when Jesus is all you have, you have everything!”
When Jesus is most important to us, knowing that He sees us gives us joy, a joy that no one can take away! “Very truly, I tell you” is Jesus’ promise! This is the joy of living the life!
- What is a time that I have experienced joy even when my world seemed to be falling apart?
- How might knowing that Jesus sees me, give me joy?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)