The Grief and Joy of the Cross


Lord, thank You for taking the tragedy of the cross and turning it into a joyous triumph. Thank You for achieving for me the salvation of my soul and for giving me a joy in You that can never be taken away from me.


Share the joy that you have in Christ with someone who needs to hear the good news that their sorrow can be turned into rejoicing, too.


Read John 16:20-24 (NIV)
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. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.


Compare and contrast the world’s joy in verse 20 with the joy that Jesus promised His disciples in verses 24. Which joy would you rather experience?

Having children is one of life’s greatest joys. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!”

And yet, in order to experience this incredible gift from the Lord, women have to go through incredible pain. Genesis 3:16 explains that pain in childbirth is a curse: “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.” The anguish of childbirth is a consequence of sin.

Now, I’ve never given birth, of course, but I am a father. I had a front row seat to all that my wife had to go through to give me our son and daughter. I’ll take her word for it when she says it was worth it. In fact, I’ve never met a mother who has said that the moments they get to spend holding their baby wasn’t worth the anguish of labor.

In the above passage, Jesus used childbirth as an analogy of how the disciples' sorrow was going to turn into joy. Just as every expectant mother acknowledges that the pain is in her future, before His death, Jesus told the disciples outright that they should expect pain in their futures. He said they will “weep and mourn” while the world rejoices. Jesus was going to die and the disciples were going to grieve. The Jews who had rejected Jesus were going to rejoice that He was dead.

But the tables would soon turn. Jesus would rise again and the deep grief the disciples had been feeling would be transformed into deep, abiding joy. The cross that had once made them weep would make them rejoice. Dr. Warren Wiersbe noted that God brings joy from pain, not by substitution but by transformation. In his New Testament Commentary, he expounded on Jesus’ childbirth illustration: “The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy. In birth, God does not substitute something else to relieve the mother’s pain. Instead, He uses what is there already but transforms it… And so it is in the Christian life; God takes seemingly impossible situations, adds the miracle of His grace, and transforms trial into triumph and sorrow into joy.

For the disciples, the cross was at first, a tragedy. But by Sunday morning, the cross was a triumph. The world’s wicked glee at Jesus’ death was just as short-lived as the disciples’ grief. But the disciples’ newfound joy wasn’t temporary. Jesus promised them that “no one will take away your joy.” The joy found in our resurrected Lord is permanent. It is eternal. God took the grief of the cross and transformed it into everlasting joy.

That joy is available to everyone who has placed saving faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter said, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).