12x9 acrylic on panel
Sorrow...it's inevitable. Job 14:1 tells us, "Man [that is] born of a woman [is] of few days, and full of trouble." Last week, we lost a dear friend. She was the piano player at our church and a real spark plug...always smiling with her own unique little giggle, and never one to back down from a friendly match in sarcasm. Carol was a real jewel of a lady, and a jewel of a Christian. She will be greatly missed.
Her passing was unexpected and a shock to our whole church family and I can only imagine what her immediate family is going through right now. No doubt, their world has been engulfed with sorrow.
The disciples of Jesus also knew full well this feeling of sorrow. In John 16:16, Jesus tells them, "A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father."
They, of course, didn't comprehend this proverb and begin to question amongst themselves what He meant. Jesus then answers their questioning hearts with a proclamation explained by an object lesson of child-birth. He said,
There is much to be said about these few verses, but the main idea that catches my attention is the fact that the object which brings so much sorrow to the mother is the same object that brings much joy. What is it that causes this mother excruciating pain and brings her to a place nearest to death? The culprit of the pain is the baby. Yet, when the baby is delivered, it is this same baby that becomes the source of joy. It's not some phase-like process as if the object of pain evolves into a totally different object of pure bliss. No, it's the same object."Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."
To the disciples, the death, or the "not seeing me" of Christ was the cause of this extreme sorrow that was felt by them. However, this same crucifixion would be the reconciling of everyone who believes to God. Jesus Christ would drink the cup of God's wrath for all who are willing to come to Christ. Three days later, He would be raised in vindication of His own righteousness and holiness. Through this resurrection, their sorrow would be turned into, or become joy!
We can say like Paul, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!" This object of death has now become our banner of life!
Another interesting detail is the "who's seeing who" in this passage. Notice in verse 16, twice He mentions "ye" seeing. He says, "ye shall not see me" and, "ye shall see me". However, in verse 22, there's no mention of "ye seeing" but of Jesus seeing you. Notice also the shift from sorrow to joy is after the reference of Jesus seeing you.
How can we apply this and why is it relevant? I can speak personally here...there are times when I've been consumed in sorrow...times of holding a limp lifeless child...times of financial ruin...times of abandonment...times of betrayal...times of sickness, physical ailments, etc...In all these times, it has been so difficult to be able, with eyes of faith, to see Jesus. It's as if the circumstance that is causing my sorrow and my own unbelief builds this massive solid wall between Him and me. "Lord, where are you?" I cry out. In my darkest of hours, it's as if He's hidden.
Luckily, my joy does not have to be hinged upon whether or not I can see Him. I see through a glass darkly, and my lack of faith makes my spiritual vision cloudy. No, my joy is not founded upon whether or not I can see Him, but it is foundational upon the fact that He sees me! What a glorious truth to know that the supreme Joy giver has set His eyes upon me. When I can't see Him, He sees me...when I can't hold onto Him, He's holding me! In this passage, Jesus redirects our perspective. Do we look to Him? Yes, but it is only because He has first set His eyes upon us. Do we love Him? Yes, but only because He first loved us.
Finally, we see that Jesus, Himself, is the object of the joy that no man can take from you. If we're searching for joy in anything else, it will be short-lived. If we're searching for joy in money, a simple turn of events can wipe it out. If you're searching for joy in relationships, you'll never be satisfied in fleeting emotions and fairy tale dreams. If you're searching for joy in your self-worth, you'll never measure up. If you're searching for joy in family or friends, they'll die. True joy...irrevocable joy, can only be found in that which can never again die. It is found in Solus Christus, Jesus Christ alone.
In order for this joy to be irrevocable, it can not be an object that is temporary; it must be everlasting. Only one Man fits this requirement: the resurrected Christ. Carol is now experiencing this reality face to face.. Because of the resurrection, she is now in the presence of Joy that will never die. Because of the resurrection, her joy is now eternal.
I pray that sorrow will be turned to joy for the Shackelford family in this season.