Both of our daughters, Karina and Angela, are Christ-centered women and wonderful wives and moms who serve their families and churches remarkably well. They are very wise, and I have learned a lot from both of them.
Angela Stump is a part-time nurse, and the women’s ministry director at Gresham Bible Church, where she and her husband Dan are both very involved. I am so touched by her heart and her trust in her Savior. Like her sister, she’s among the most godly people I know.
The following is an Easter devotional Angela wrote this week for the women at her church. I hope her message of joy after sorrow will encourage your heart as you anticipate celebrating Easter Sunday, despite the difficulties of life in this season. —Randy Alcorn
“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. (John 16:16–24)
When I was initially given this passage of Scripture to write about, I thought my devotional would include a little anecdote about either of my two labors and deliveries. I could’ve shared about the epidural not working with my oldest son Jake, or how our younger son Ty gave us a scare with the umbilical cord around his neck. I could have shared about the toll that pregnancies took on my body, or the scars (both literal and figurative) I still have after giving birth. I could have honestly told you what every parent knows, whether you have physically gone through labor or not: the joy that my children bring was worth every amount of suffering I have experienced, or will ever go through.
But surprisingly, God ended up laying on my heart to share what He taught me through my pregnancy that did not end in joy.
About seven and a half years ago we were shocked to discover that I was pregnant with baby number three. There were all sorts of reasons why I'd been "sure" we were done, including several medical issues. This news came to us only six months after I had gone through a dramatic health scare, one which I thought could end up taking my life. Now instead of planning how I might leave this world, we were planning for this tiny miracle that would enter it.
It took us a while to wrap our heads around it, but soon I found myself excited at the turn of events. Every baby is a miracle from God, but this pregnancy felt different. This was one that God would use for something amazing, one that I was sure would change my life and be a walking testimony of God's faithfulness to our family. The sorrow I had felt six months prior was now turning into joy!
But God had different plans. When I realized I was having a miscarriage, I was sucked into confusion and grief. God was getting it all wrong. Why would He give us this miracle out of nowhere, one that we didn't even ask for, only to rip it away again? This was not the way it was supposed to turn out. And yet, just a month after finding out we were pregnant, God took our baby to live with Him in heaven.
Anguish. Sorrow. There was no hope of my heart rejoicing at the end…or was there?
Whether or not you relate to my story of miscarriage, all of us have experienced suffering and loss. When we are in the pit of darkness, is there truly hope? And if there is, how do we see it?
Our broken hearts desperately need comfort, but in order for the comfort to last, it has to be based on truth. My dad, Randy Alcorn, has written several books about God's faithfulness in the midst of evil and suffering. In his book 90 Days of God's Goodness he says this:
“Never seek comfort by ignoring truth. Comfort in falsehood is false comfort. Jesus said, ‘The truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). When you try to soothe your feelings without bothering to think deeply about ideas, you are asking to be manipulated. Quick-fix feelings won't sustain you over the long-haul. On the other hand, deeply rooted beliefs—specifically a worldview grounded in Scripture—will allow you to persevere and hold on to a faith built on the solid rock of God's truth."
So what do we do when this broken world full of disappointments and grief threatens to overwhelm us? We cry out to God. We tell Him we don't understand and ask Him why He doesn't do things the way we would. And where do we find His answers? In the truth of His Word.
"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
We can find our comfort in God’s truth. His ways are not our ways. Even though we don’t always see it, He is preparing an eternal weight of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.
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 John 16 Jesus was telling His disciples He was about to die. He said they would weep and lament. They would be filled with sorrow and not understand the purpose of His death and their suffering. In order to have comfort, they would need to hang on to the truth He had spoken to them.
The truth was that the disciples’ ultimate comfort (and ours) could never have been found unless Jesus died. He suffered on our behalf so that we might not suffer for eternity. He was beaten, mocked, and nailed to a cross. He bore our sin and our shame so we didn't have to. But His death and suffering, and the suffering of all who loved Him, was not the end of the story. On the third day He rose again, forever conquering sin and death.
When we put our trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are assured that though this life is full of sorrow, the life to come will not be:
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling placeof God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:3-5).
In order for us to have comfort now in the midst of suffering, we must hang on to the truth. We may have sorrow presently, but we can trust that because our ultimate sorrow was borne by Jesus on the cross, one day our anguish will be forever gone and our hearts will rejoice for all eternity.
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