Sorrow Turned Into Joy
Sorrow Turned into Joy
“19 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? 20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and la-ment, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21 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. 22 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.” (Jn. 16:19-22.)
My text comes from v. 20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and la-ment, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Today I want to talk about “Sorrow Turned into Joy.” There is plenty of sor-row in this world. And there is much joy in this world. The Lord has saved us and has left us in this world for a certain amount of time; so, there is no doubt that each of us – even those of us that are saved – will endure sorrow in this life. But it is also evident that, by the grace of God, there is much joy that we experience in this life. The Lord spoke of sorrow that was comparable to the woman who travails in the birth of a child. This is a sorrow that is a result of physical pain and duress. I suppose that the disciples would soon experience such physical pain, when they would be arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or even killed by the world, soon after the Lord ascended into Heaven. The Lord also spoke of a sorrow that was comparable to the loss of a loved one. This is a sorrow of a much more emotional manner – a sorrow that dwells in the mind and heart, a sorrow that diminishes our emotional strength, and saps the inner will of our souls. This is a sorrow that the disciples would also soon experience, when the Lord was taken from them and killed; when the Lord was raised from the grave, but then was taken from them into Heaven. There would be sorrow that was the result of physical pain, and there would be sorrow that was the result of despair and grief.
And yet, through it all, God sustained them: and, through it all, God will sustain you, me, and all men and women who are called unto His glorious grace. The sorrow of pain and suffer-ing; the sorrow of grief and misery; these will all be replaced with joy supreme! Certainly, the joy will be experienced somewhat in this mortal realm; but truly, the joy supreme will not be just experienced, but will be lived forever in the presence of Jesus Christ, in the eons of eternity!
But, to get back to my subject, I would like to talk to you today about some true and rec-orded happenings in the lives of the disciples of Jesus Christ – the followers of God – as they experience sorrow turned into joy. What I want to talk about today are the instances in the human realm where sorrow becomes joy. That seems to me to be what the Lord is speaking of in our text verses. There is the familiar earthly saying “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Or “It is always darkest, just before the dawn.” These sayings convey a little of what I want to talk about today – only, strictly from a Scriptural point of view. During the course of this message, I want to give you three examples of our human sorrow being turned into joy.
The Death of Jesus Christ
This is the immediate and foremost meaning or fulfillment of the Words of Jesus Christ. This is the time of sorrow which is now upon the disciples. Soon, the Saviour and Messiah in which they had placed their hope and trust would be taken away from them. “22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.” (Mt. 17:22-23.) They were sorry to hear that these things would be; and they would be even more sorrowful when the terrible events would unfold before their very eyes.
Can you imagine the overwhelming sorrow and fear and terror and sadness that would af-flict the disciples of the Lord at the time of His Death? Can you imagine the awful feeling of guilt and hopelessness that would afflict them as they saw Him taken away from them, and as they witnessed the events of His Crucifixion, Torture, and Death? (See Lk. 23:27-28.) Well, I know that such great grief is hard to imagine, but the disciples must go through this grief and sorrow, or they would not ever see the joy of the return of the Lord.
We read in Mk. 16:9-10, “9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.” I envision the dis-ciples gathered together here – huddled together in fear and sorrow. And now, they hear word of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, their sorrow is too great! The Good News cannot penetrate their veil of sorrow (and dare we say, self-pity?). But, just as in the old saying, “It is always darkest, just before the dawn.”
Though there was great sorrow at the death of Jesus Christ, there was also great joy when the disciples saw Him again. “36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?” (Lk. 24:36-41.) Now, I know that there is some fear and unbelief that is manifested here; but as the truth would dawn on the disciples, their sorrow would be traded for great and wonderful joy!
In the cases of those that have been saved since the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, we know that there shall be great joy given to us – in this life, and in the life to come. “5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heavi-ness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more pre-cious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1Pet. 1:5-9.) Here we can see that God gives joy to those that know Him. Though all of us in this life must need be…in heaviness, still, to know the Lord inspires great joy that exceeds all sorrow. We have this joy in some measure in this life, but this joy will be greatly enhanced in the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven. Let’s move on to think a little farther about that joy that we have as children of God.
The Repentance of the Sinner
I think we can see a picture of salvation itself in the verses that we have before us today. We can see a picture of those that have sorrowed over their own condition, and the place that they are in. But, when Jesus Christ is revealed to them, we can see their sorrow turned into joy. Just as the disciples must sorrow first, and then receive the joy of being witnesses of the Resur-rected Saviour; even so, in order to be saved, we must first feel the sorrow and the pangs of our sins; we must be convicted and tormented over our current and terrible and hopeless condition before that we can ever receive the joy of the salvation that comes from God.
Certainly, this is what happens to those that are truly saved by the grace of God. There must first be sorrow and sadness and conviction over our sins. Then, the Holy Spirit will show us Jesus Christ, Who alone can save us from our miserable condition! Paul put it this way: “9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” (2Cor. 7:9-11.) Maybe this isn’t the best example to use, since Paul is obviously speaking to the Church at Corinth, and the repent-ance that he speaks of is had in reference to those that have already been saved. Still, I think that it is safe to say that genuine “repentance” ought to be closely associated to “sorrow” of heart and mind. Though the world of religion might neglect the “godly sorrow unto repentance,” we find that without this true and godly repentance their must not be any salvation at all!
Where is the sorrow that this world ought to express over sin? Where is the sadness and the grief that we as men and women in this country ought to express for our sins? Where is even the outrage and the disgust over the sins that are so openly committed in societies? I tell you this: if there is no sorrow and repentance in our nation for the sins that we have committed, then the Lord will punish this people and this nation. But, to get back to my subject matter at hand, we must see this genuine sorrow and grief over sin in the lives of those that would prostrate them-selves at the feet of Jesus Christ.
Then, after the sinner experiences that sorrow and that repentance, he is full of joy and re-joicing in Jesus Christ. We read in Ps. 30:11-12, “11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; 12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” Isaiah put it this way: “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isa. 25:9.) Do you see how the sorrow of the sinner is turned into Joy? What a gracious God our God is! To not only give us salvation; to not only save us from hell and our sins; to not only give us a sense of security; but, to also give us great joy and gladness and rejoicing in the Person of Jesus Christ!
We read an account of a people that rejoiced in the salvation of Jesus Christ during the Lord’s earthly ministry: “35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. 40 And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was re-turned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.” (Lk. 8:35-40.) I know that this seems like an odd passage to read, given our current subject matter. But, I want you to consider the lives of these folks that were witnesses of the miracle that the Lord per-formed on this Gadarene demoniac. I want you to see the effect of the witness and the testimony of this man that waited at the feet of Jesus. These folks were once afraid of the Lord – especial-ly as they considered His Glory and His Honor and His Holiness and their own wretched state. But, after a consideration of the witness of the man out of whom the Lord had cast the devils; and, after receiving the testimony of the Holy Spirit Himself; it seems that these folks were antic-ipating the presence of Jesus Christ and the people gladly received him: for they were all wait-ing for him. See how their sorrow and fear was turned into gladness? See how their despite for Jesus Christ was turned into anticipation for His return?
No matter what might be the shape or the situation of the world around us, the sorrow that is all around us cannot take from us the joy that we have in the salvation that comes forth from God. “17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab. 3:17-18.)
The Death of the Righteous
The last example that I want us to consider today, is that of death itself. I am sure that there are not many things in this world that are feared as much as death. And, I am sure that there are not many things in this life that inspire sorrow and sadness and grief like death itself. But, I want you to know that the Words of Jesus Christ are capable of bringing us relief, hope, comfort, and even joy when we consider the deaths of those that are the people of God.
“13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ev-er be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1Thess. 4:13-18.) There is no need for us to over-sorrow concerning the death of the people of God. Nor is there any reason for us to fear or sorrow concerning our own demise. The people of the Lord cannot fall nor can they be utterly lost! We must be preserved even unto Heaven! This should cause us great joy. What sorrow we feel, ought to be swallowed up of joy!
We read in Isa. 51:11, “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” No matter how long we live in this life; and, no matter how great might be our sorrows; still, at some point this life will end. If we are a part of that particularly blessed generation of the Lord’s people, then we will live to see the Return of the Lord, and we will be gathered up to be with Him. On the other hand, if we go the way of the rest of humanity that has gone on before us, then we will die in this life, and awake in the life to come. Either way, we have the promise of the presence of Jesus Christ to in-spire us to joy and gladness. And no matter how long we live in this life, the life to come is so much longer and so much more enduring. The gladness and joy and the comforts and the pleas-ures that we will experience there will swallow up the sorrow and mourning which we experi-ence below!
The older that I get, the less I fear death. I know that when I was younger, even the thought of growing old brought some measure of sorrow. And death itself seemed to be a thing to cause despair. But I know that the Lord teaches us through experience that the sadness and sorrow of this earth is not our final abode. The older I get, the more I wonder, “Why would any-one want to live forever in this life?” And the older I get, and the closer I draw to God, the more I wonder, “When will Christ return? When will I go to be with the Lord?”
In heaven there will be utter and complete and total joy – there will be no sorrow! This verse in the Book of the Revelation is one that is always a comfort to those of the people of God that might consider the cost of death, and the fate that awaits us: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4.)