From Grief to Joy

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John 16:16-24; 33 – From Grief to Joy – from Chaplain Ryan
Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 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. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. “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.”

Hello Friends!!! As I type this afternoon (on 5/7) the sun is shining and the birds are singing and it is a beautiful Spring Day! What a gift from God! I hope you are getting out at least a little bit and getting some fresh air and some Vitamin D and taking in the beauty of creation. Later this afternoon I will gather with a couple faithful volunteers and we will walk and pray, and walk and pray, and walk and pray, around the perimeter of the Christian Village Campus. We did a Prayer walk like this a month ago. We will be outside and we will be socially distanced, but we will not be distanced from God as we continue to ask Him for His protection, provision, and wisdom. Our residents are doing well and my coworkers are doing a great job keeping everyone safe. We have a lot to be thankful for thus far in the midst of the challenges we face.

This beautiful passage from John 16 communicates hard reality while at the same time communicating real and life-changing hope. Jesus is telling His disciples of his imminent death on the cross and resurrection. They were not ready to hear these truths. Their hearts or their minds or a combination of both were having difficulty processing their teacher’s coming death (who can blame them). As they seek clarification Jesus does not hide the facts from them. He tells them that they will grieve and that they will experience pain. He even tells them at the beginning of the chapter that they will experience severe persecution due to their devotion to Jesus (“They will put you out of the synagogue… in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.”). Not something that they wanted to hear but something that they needed to hear for sure!

Have you been hearing anything lately that you did not want to hear? Have you been experiencing anything lately that you have not wanted to experience? There have been many changes connected to COVID-19 that have been difficult cope with. These changes produce loss. Loss produces grief. The reality, is that change, loss, and grief are a part of life. I’m not sure we do a very good job teaching children about that or talking about this difficult truth within our culture. Science and Technology and even our Country’s Economy have improved our lives to such a degree that many in our country/world may feel insulated from danger or risk or loss. “If you aren’t feeling well, then go to the doctor and get a pill… he will fix it.” “If you need a better paying job to pay the bills, go to the local university and get a degree and get a better job… that will fix it!” “If you are having some disagreements or discord with your spouse or with your children just go to the local counselor in town or go to the local bookstore and read what the experts have to say… that will fix it!” I am not trying to disparage all of the resources that exist to help us cope with the challenges of life (I’m thankful for all the help I can get!). What I am saying is that there are some things that can’t be fixed and that change, loss, and grief are a part of reality even when we try to ignore or insulate our loved ones to this fact. We have it so good in this country, sometimes I think we forget about the reality of the fallen and imperfect world in which we live. Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 Pandemic is a wake up call to this reality for many people in the world. We don’t want to hear about the havoc that this virus has unleashed upon the world, upon nations, upon communities, and upon families. But burying our heads in the sand won’t make reality go away.

“In this world you will have trouble.” Disciples of Jesus Christ have experienced trouble for generations. The Church has been persecuted throughout history in different locations and in different ways by different groups with different motivations. Sometimes The Church has been her own worst enemy or her own source of trouble, allowing pride, corruption, and sin to take her off her missional course. Our grief also comes with a yearning to be with Jesus. As Christians we believe in a Risen Savior and we are so thankful for the gift of the Holy Spirit as our Counselor and Guide and Comforter, but we still yearn to see Him face to face. Our Grief and our Joy can exist simultaneously.

That leads me to the best part within our text. Christ is leading us from a place of grief, to a place of joy! Christ is leading us from a place of brokenness, to a place of Wholeness! Christ is leading us from a place of fear to a place of peace and confidence! The One who has overcome the world is also the One who takes you along with Him towards abundant and true life! This is truly Good News! Change, Loss, and Grief will not make up the totality of reality for the Child of God, and in fact, one day when we are with Christ for all eternity the only changes we will experience will bring tears of joy, never sorrow, because there will be no such thing as “loss.”

This new reality is the direction we are heading in by grace through faith in Jesus. Until we reach that new reality, we will continue to experience change, loss, and grief along our journey, but God will be with us to encourage us with His truth and to pick us up again by His grace. God will send little “points of light” to help us persevere. A flower blooming, a bird singing, a phone call from a friend, even a letter in the mail from a Pastor can remind us that what lies ahead of us is better than what remains behind us. The Good Shepherd is guiding us to new pasturelands. The journey may not be smooth, but the arrival will be sweet, for a deeper and more intimate relationship with our Creator and Redeemer awaits us.

This is timeless truth. It is truth for all times and all places and all peoples within the context of Christian Faith. This is also a Timely Truth. The Coronavirus Epidemic is yet another example of the brokenness or limitations of this world. People need to know that there is hope beyond what we see with our eyes or within the latest news broadcast. People need to hear of joy that transcends and overcomes grief. Let us be faithful ambassadors of this truth for in so doing we might be able to plant a seed for this Gospel, helping to point some precious souls in the direction of the One who can give them hope in these uncertain times. THANKS BE TO GOD… AMEN!

***Instead of a Hymn this week I wanted to honor our mothers and those who have been like a mother to us through this beautiful story! Enjoy!***

Parable of Motherhood By Temple Bailey

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. "Is the way long?" she asked. And her guide said, "Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning." But the young mother was happy and she would not believe that anything could be better than those years. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way and bathed them in the clear streams; and the sun shone on them and life was good, and the young mother cried, "Nothing will never be lovelier than this."

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said, "Oh Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come," and the mother said, "This is better than the brightness of day, for I have taught my children courage."

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children, "A little patience and we are there." So the children climbed and when they reached the top, they said, "We could not have done it without you, Mother." And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said, "This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage, today I have given then strength."

And with the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil--and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said, "Look up. Lift your eyes to the light." And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said, "This is the best day of all for I have shown my children God."

And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was little and bent. And her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. And when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said, "I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone and their children after them." And the children said, "You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates."

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said, "We cannot see her, but she is with us still. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a Living Presence."



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