The Transformation of Pain to Joy


Jesus promises the disciples that He would go away very soon, but He promised them that in “a little while” they would see Him (v. 16). The disciples were confused by this statement “a little while” (vv. 17-19). Although  there are differences of opinion as to what He meant, it seems that He was  referring to His brief, forty day ministry on earth between His resurrection and His ascension. It could have referred to the brief time He spent in the grave after His death on the cross.

Jesus explains that the disciples would weep at His death, but the world would rejoice thinking that they were finished with Christ (v. 20). However, the sorrow of the disciples would be turned to joy through the resurrection. He uses the illustration of how pain in childbirth is followed by the joy of new life when a child is born (v. 21). The disciples were entering the process of pain, but the light of joy was just ahead. You may be very sad now, but later I will see you, and you will be so happy that no one will be able to change the way you feel (v.22). At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything (v. 23). You will be able to ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name (v. 24). Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

The principle He is teaching is that God brings joy to our lives, not by substitution, but by transformation. Most of us know what it is like to have an unhappy child because a toy is broken.  If the parent always gets a new toy for the child each time a toy is broken, that child will grow up expecting every problem to be solved by substitution. We cannot mature emotionally or spiritually if someone is always replacing our broken toys.  Jesus did not say that the mother’s sorrow (pain) was replaced by joy, but that the sorrow was transformed into joy. The same baby that caused the pain can also bring much joy.


I want the trials of my life to be transformed into joy. Just as an operation may be necessary and cause pain at the time, it will bring good health and joy later.

John 16:12-24 (English Standard Version)

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