“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”
They said, “What does he mean by this ‘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, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete."
~ John 16:16 - 24
Have you ever had an experience where you thought to yourself, "If I can just manage this for another 20 minutes?"
Over the years while serving as a chaplain, I have heard people tell me time and time again, "If I can just make it through the next day" when talking about treatment, or a surgery. There is something about knowing that something is about to come to an end that brings some kind of relief.
It's all about goals, reaching them, and the process.
Jesus tries to once again share with his followers that he would once again be leaving them. "In a little while" doesn't give an exact time frame, now does it?
It's not like him telling them that he would be with them always, although that does seem to come up. No, this has to do with physical presence. Jesus has died, he has risen, and very soon he will ascend to heaven.
There is something about the framework of time that tends to keep all of us just a little anxious. The whole idea, of course, seems to be a human construct. We confine the idea of creation to 7 literal days, but just how long were those days actually?
For me, it doesn't really matter. I am comfortable in recognizing that God has a plan, and that Jesus is trying to convey that plan to those around him.
He is literally telling them, "Look, I am with you now, but I will not always be physically with you. I must leave, however, at some point, I will see you face to face again when you come to join me in my Father's house."
I'm not sure if those around him were comfortable with this, because he also tells them that there will be sadness, mourning, and pain. The world seems to already be full of these things, and Jesus just seems to acknowledge that those around him will continue to experience these circumstances. Why would I want to endure this as well?
He then talks about joy.
I am all about that!
I have been blessed to be present for the birth of both of my children. I must admit, the process was not joyful, however, within moments after giving birth, the pain was behind their mother, and there was real joy that entered.
Although we will endure the things that Jesus shared, the end result will leave us joyful.
It's more than just "getting through this," though. It's about living our life, through all times, and carrying the love of Christ to others. No matter how difficult our life may seem, there is already a glimpse of the joy that we will experience.
Just knowing that this life, and our experiences, will last "a while," the idea that there is more once this life is complete, that will bring us great joy, makes each day something that we can experience.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear Lord, You showed us that life can be full of struggles, however, Your presence and words remind us that there is to also be great joy. May the joy of the Lord not just give us strength through these moments, but fill our entire life. Amen.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.