Easter: From Grief To Joy

Our sorrows and grief will not last – they will be replaced by joy and rejoicing:

Many Bible verses speak about a great reversal wherein those who are suffering and mourning end up rejoicing and praising God. Indeed, a great and marvelous theme of the biblical story-line in general, and of the Easter event in particular, is how God turns sorrow and grief into joy and rejoicing. Consider some of these terrific passages.

One such text is Psalm 30. In verses 4-5 we read:

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

And in verses 11-12 there are these memorable words:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Isaiah 61:1-3 is another well-known passage:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

Jeremiah 31:10-14 says this:

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
    and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
    and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
    and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
    and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
    and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
    and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the Lord.”

And Jesus, just before he was to go to the cross and suffer horribly, told his disciples that their grief would soon be turned to joy. As we read in John 16:16-24:

A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 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. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

This is the great hope of the Christian faith. Not only can we have forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ, not only will there be a resurrection in which the redeemed will go to be with the Lord forever, but even the sorrows and griefs we experience now will come to an end – in this life, partially, and in the next life, fully.

Yesterday, on Easter Sunday – Resurrection Day – I awoke to the news that a Christian friend Paul had just passed away with leukemia. He and his family had raised a special needs child for many years. The wheelchair-bound Grant was lovingly looked after by Paul and his wife and daughter for so many years. Sadly Grant, the adopted son, passed away a few months ago. And then Paul, this wonderful caregiver, too has just passed away.

They are now both gone to be with the Lord. Pray for his surviving family members please. They would be glad that both are now with Jesus, but they would also be grieving and mourning heavily right now. The sorts of passages I shared above would undoubtedly be going through their minds right now.

Of interest, just on Saturday night I was reflecting about all the friends and folks I have known over the years who have passed on and are now with the Lord. Like the Apostle Paul I am torn: I would much prefer to be with the Lord, but it seems my time here is not yet finished.

I had told my friend Paul I wanted to write up his story, and do an interview with him as well. Neither one happened. But his story will be told for all eternity, because of His Story. What a difference the resurrection of Jesus makes!

Let no one ever fool you into thinking Christianity is like all the other world religions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only biblical Christianity features a God who becomes one of us, dies in our place, is raised from the dead, and offers those who put their faith and trust in him resurrection life as well.

Image of The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ
The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Rutledge, Fleming (Author) Amazon logo

As Fleming Rutledge put it in her important book, The Crucifixion: “Christianity is unique. The world’s religions have certain traits in common, but until the gospel of Jesus Christ burst upon the Mediterranean world, no one in the history of human imagination had conceived of such a thing as the worship of a crucified man.”

Everything changes because of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. This is something incomparable in all of human history. No wonder even our calendars are marked by the Christ event. Three concluding quotes all stress the absolute newness and utter uniqueness of what Christ did.

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.” G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, 1925

“The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘first fruits’, the ‘pioneer of life’. He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.” C. S. Lewis, Miracles, 1947

“The cross, incomparably vindicated by the Resurrection, is the novum, the new factor in human experience, the definitive and world-changing act of God, that makes the New Testament proclamation unique in all the world.” Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion, 2015

Remember: because of the resurrection, your sorrow WILL be turned into joy – if not now, then in the next life. So hang in there saints. One final passage from John 16; verse 33 says: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Afterword

After a bit of digging around on the internet I found a song that speaks to this. Back in 1976 a roommate at a Christian college had this album and played it often. The song is “Joy in the Morning”: www.invubu.com/music/show/song/Tim-Sheppard/Joy-In-The-Morning.html

[1543 words]

3 Replies to “Easter: From Grief To Joy”

  1. Too often we stay in the shame of the Cross – we need to look under that shame and see the glory from it – the glory of the grace of God, giving us the access to live in the life of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh, if only this was a more regular message from the pulpits – that for those who believe, all that we are, all that we will be, is in Christ, by the grace of God. Not only was the curtain torn at the crucifixion, but the scales are lifted from the eyes of believers for them to see what it truly means to be a child of God. Everything in the NT assures of the resurrection and all its implications – to live as Paul said by the life of Christ in us (from the outpouring of God’s grace through Christ).

  2. Bill,
    I, too, learned of the passing of a close friend and dear Christian brother on Easter morning as I sat in church. What a comfort to know that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. But because of our Risen Lord, we do have the assurance that we will see them again one glorious Day! Hallelujah, what a Savior! I’m praying for Paul’s family and ask that you pray for my friend Phillip’s family, who will gather on Thursday to both grieve and celebrate his homegoing.

  3. Joy in the morning reminiscent of 70s Jesus people style music. Good to hear the message again too. Blessings Bill.

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