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When Will Our Sorrow Turn to Joy?
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. - John 16:20, ESV
When will our sorrow turn to joy? We live in a fallen world of immorality and God-hating. We long to know God, but our hearts are often cold and God often seems a million miles away. The world either patronizes, mocks or condemns our faith, thinking we are either children, fools or madmen. We watch our culture spiral in its death-grip of toxicity, embracing that which kills and rejecting that which gives life.
When will our sorrow turn to joy? "Life is not long, but it's hard," says one of my favorite Andrew Peterson songs. We struggle with sin and long to be holy, but we fall and are overcome with shame again and again. We know we are saved by the righteousness of Jesus, but we long for that righteousness to penetrate our own hearts more deeply and truly. Our faith falters. Our prayers are weak. Our doubts rise. We run back to the cross.
Jesus told us that we would weep and lament, and we have seen how true His words were. Those three days the disciples spent in hiding and mourning feel like a parable for our lives at times. But Jesus also said that our sorrow would be turned to joy. Jesus also said that our longing would be fulfilled, that the mocking of the world would be turned on its head. Jesus also said that no one would be able to take our joy from us. But when will our sorrow be turned to joy? Only when we see Him.
Only when our eyes behold what our hearts have long desired will sorrow suddenly turn to joy. Notice that Jesus says, "Your sorrow will be turned into joy." The very sorrow of the disciples in watching their Lord hang shamefully and painfully on the cross was itself turned into joy by the resurrection. In the face of the risen Jesus, they saw the love that took Him to the cross. In the hands and feet and side of their risen Lord, they saw the scars of their salvation, and what had made them so sorrowful filled them with joy.
Like the disciples in the Upper Room on that first Lord's Day morning, we will see the risen Jesus face-to-face. And like the disciples, we will see our sorrow turn into joy. My favorite writers have captured this well:
In the last book of the Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee (the greatest literary hero of all time), asks Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” When Jesus comes again, we will see the reality of Gandalf's reply to Sam: "A great shadow has departed." We will no longer walk in the valley of the shadow of death, and so all of the sad things will come untrue.
C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, writes, "[Some] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”
In the meantime, we pray and God hears and graciously answers. We long and God gives us enough glimpses of glory and relief from the sorrow to encourage our hearts and keep us walking, one step at a time. But our hearts can never be complete until we are at home with Him. Once we see that, the journey becomes less marred by our disappointments and more filled with anticipation of His glory!
Prayer Based on Psalm 66:
Let the whole earth shout for joy to You, O God!
Let us sing the glory of Your name,
and give to You glorious praise!
Let us say to You, “How awesome are Your deeds!
So great is Your power that Your enemies come cringing to You.
All the earth worships You
and sings praises to You;
they sing praises to Your name.”
We can see what You have done:
You are awesome in Your deeds toward the children of man.
You turned the sea into dry land;
Your people passed through the river on foot.
Your turned Your Son into an offering for our sin,
Taking our shame and guilt and swallowing it all on the cross.
There do we rejoice in You,
who rule by Your might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let not the rebellious exalt themselves.
Let all the people bless Your name, God;
let the sound of Your praise be heard,
You who have kept our soul among the living
and have not let our feet slip.
For You, O God, have tested us;
You have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
You laid a crushing burden on our backs;
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
Yet You have brought us out to a place of abundance.
I will come into Your house with an offering of thanksgiving on my lips;
I will perform my vows to You,
that which my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
I will offer to You the living sacrifice of my life,
as my reasonable worship in response to Your powerful mercy!
Let all who fear You come and hear,
and I will tell them what You have done for my soul.
I cried to You with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
You, O Lord, would not have listened.
But truly You, my God, have listened;
You have attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be You, O God,
because You have not rejected my prayer
or removed Your steadfast love from me!