John 16:20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 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. 22 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.
33 “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.”
Jesus and his disciples were going through difficult days and yet this was just the very beginning of all that was going to happen to them. Jesus knew that he was about to be arrested and the days that would follow would be emotional and painful for his followers. For all of them life would never be peaceful ever again. They would go on to faithfully preach the good news about Jesus and all of them, with the exception of John would be killed for their faith. John would have to live out his years in exile on the island of Patmos. None of this sounds very exciting and Jesus knows what lies ahead for his dear friends. He equates the times of trouble to labor pains. The pains are difficult and yet when the child is born, one really does forget what they've gone through to hold that little one in your arms! I don't think that any of us can comprehend what lies ahead when we will be privileged to be in the presence with Jesus! I think he's telling us that all of the pains of this life will fade in comparison to being in his presence.
I really struggle with churches that preach a prosperity gospel -- that if you follow Jesus everything in your life will be wonderful! How can that be? Jesus had said, "In this world you will have trouble." That doesn't sound like a promise of things always being smooth and easy while here on this earth. What about examples from history? Look at the disciples -- martyrs. Look at the early Christians -- many of them were martyred in gladiatorial events. Nero covered them with tar and burned them as torches in his gardens. And the list goes on and on. Those who have gone before us, who have been faithful servants of Jesus Christ have lived through the good and the bad.
So what do you say to my friend Mike whose son Grant has been slowly coming out of a coma for nearly two years? Grant still can't talk or walk. In the midst of Grant's accident Carol's cancer came back with a vengeance and a year ago Carol died. Now Mike's a single father with a son who should be at college and enjoying life and instead he's in a hospital bed receiving intensive therapy on a daily basis. "In this world you will have trouble."
The families of Newtown, Connecticut have faced their greatest fear -- their little ones who were to be safe were shot down before their lives could ever blossom. "In this world you will have trouble."
We live on the edge of an economic cliff and none of us has any idea what next year will hold. "In this world you will have trouble"
The reality is that this life will have its ups and downs. Jesus promised that! But he also promised, "Take heart I have overcome the world!" The troubles and trials of this world, the difficulties which we face on a daily basis are labor pains. They actually point us in a direction of hope for there will be a time when this prolonged labor will come to an end and the return of the baby which was born nearly 2000 years ago will bring such joy that all the troubles of life on this earth will fade into the distance. Labor pains are always difficult but when we know that there will be a beautiful outcome as a result we can tolerate the pain. We may be facing those days now, but we have hope in the baby who came and who will come again. We will survive the labor pains and when we celebrate Jesus the joy of his presence will make the pains of life fade into the distance.
I thank you for the labor pains which brought two beautiful daughters into my life. Thank you for the reminder of the beauty which is to come in my relationship with you. Amen.