The joy of this world is actually sad stuff. We sing in the hymn, “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me”: “What is all this life possesses? But a hand Full of sand That the heart distresses. Noble gifts that pall me never Christ, our Lord, Will accord To His saints forever.” Daily life proves it. You can’t stop death and final judgment. Even the best moments of this life quickly flee and reality sets in. You can’t take all the happy times with you to the grave.
Things are different for Christians. Jesus tells His disciples and us today, that your sorrow shall be turned to joy. He later adds four consoling statements that encourage us to look beyond now to what is to come for all who trust in Christ as their Savior: I will see you again. Your hearts shall rejoice. No one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask Me nothing.
These statements from our Lord set the tone for today and the four following Sundays through Pentecost. Jesus is preparing His disciples for His ascension to His Father and the forthcoming descent of the Holy Spirit. Consider how miserable things would be for the disciples if Jesus remained with them. There would be no crucifixion, no resurrection, no ascension, and no promise of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. They will soon have enough sorrow because the Savior will be taken from them and they will not see Him. It seems as if the forces of hell will win. Every promise Jesus makes about His passion will not come true.
So it is for us today. It seems as if Jesus has left us alone to fight the powers of hell without His comfort. Not only has He seemingly abandoned us in spiritual crosses, but also those temporal crosses seem to multiply…and God doesn’t say anything as we suffer. Jesus calls that time when He will not be seen a little while, but it feels like a long while, perhaps several lifetimes rolled into one moment.
Jesus reminds us again today: Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice...you have sorrow now. Like the disciples, we too are weak. We are weak in knowledge and in faith. We’ve been well trained in the promises of God, yet when the going gets tough all that knowledge doesn’t pay our taxes or heal our infirmities or bring broken families together again. The last thing we do when there’s trouble is pray. Prayer is our bailout, our backstop when other helpers fail and comforts flee. Our sin makes us distress. Our fellow Christians disappoint us when, instead of mutual encouragement, they instead pile on our misery with their own miserable words and actions. Perhaps you have done the same when the shoe is on the other foot.
The prophet Isaiah captures how it is with us. One minute we say, the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. The next breath we say, the Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. The world always seems to win. You try to do the right thing, but suffer for it. Yet here comes Jesus in the midst of bleak circumstances with the cry, your sorrow shall be turned to joy.
Our Lord’s words are true. We don’t want to believe it, but He hasn’t skimped once. The hard part is trying to figure out how long the little while lasts. Merrily go our enemies and children of the world, hopping and skipping through life with no cares. We walk around like Atlas, carrying every burden on our back. How long is this little while going to last? The answer is: a little while.
A little while, then we will be free of our frail trust in God’s promises. A little while, then weakness of body and spirit will be shrugged off us like water on a duck’s back. A little while, then all your particular temptations will be gone. Christ promises: I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of Me.
You will ask nothing of Jesus because everything will be yours. Everything is yours now, though not in its fullness. Forgiveness is yours. Eternal life is yours. Salvation is yours. Jesus earned it for you. Temptations, doubt, frail faith, weak faith, and all sorts of worries remain because sin remains. Jesus will see you again, and in that day you’ll ask nothing. You’ll know all that troubles you will be taken away. Death is swallowed up in victory. Satan and his companions will be cast into the burning lake of fire. The dead in Christ will rise.
Your sorrow will turn into joy. I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. The first words of today’s Introit say it all: Shout for joy. Shout for joy to the Lord because His Word never fails. What you suffer now in your body, mind, and soul, will soon be gone. You won’t remember them. You won’t care. You are in Christ. You will be perfect in the New Creation. The old has passed. The new has come. You’ll have nothing to ask Jesus for, because all things are yours.
Shout for joy. Jesus goes to His Father to prepare a place for you. He sends the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to keep you close to Him in His gifts. Your enemy lies vanquished. Your Savior has won the victory and gives you all the spoils. The hand full of sand soon will be brushed aside. In its place you receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. That day is only a little while away. Until then, shout for joy, for He sent redemption to His people. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.