Sorrow Turns to Joy in Christ’s Resurrection
“I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” (John 16:20)
The glorious season of Easter is upon us once again, enlivening our souls with the uplifting message of renewal, peace, hope, and the ultimate triumph of good and righteousness.
The earthly life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His ministry among the people, leading to His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and culminating in His Resurrection, conveys to us yet another heartening message, that of sorrow turning into joy.
Near the end of His life here on earth, Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time that He would no longer be with them physically; “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me…” (John 16:16), but they did not understand. Before long, Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death on the Cross. Through it all, they were anguished, unable to comprehend what was happening to their beloved Teacher and Master. The disciples were in great sorrow at the thought of Jesus not being with them anymore, at the sight of Him being subjected to such persecution and suffering, and at what appeared to be the triumph of evil over good. While they were weeping and lamenting the loss of their Lord however, the world, the Jewish chief priests and officers, were rejoicing at their assumed victory.
But on the third day, doubt and despair gave way to unbridled joy. The Lord had Risen! He was alive! “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). The tremendous sorrow they had experienced just a few days before at His torture and death at once turned into joy at the sight of the empty tomb and the Risen Christ. That same thing which had caused the disciples great sorrow, the death of Christ, turned into cause for joy at His Glorious Resurrection. They were revitalized in their faith and filled with new hope and new purpose. In short, they became new individuals, the bold witnesses of our Lord Jesus Christ, spreading His Light and Truth among all nations. There was no reason for sorrow anymore. Their Lord was alive and with them, and this time it would be for eternity. It would not have happened, however, had He not endured suffering on the Cross. Without the pain of death, there would not be the glory of the Resurrection. Without the bitterness of sorrow, we would not appreciate the sweetness of the joy.
Sorrow is an inevitable part of life, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Each and every one of us experiences storms in our lives. Like the disciples, in the depths of our despair we may not be able to fathom what God’s purpose is; but as faithful Christians, we are reassured in that we do not suffer alone. And so, we must have patience and trust that God is working to prepare us for something greater than we can imagine. Jesus defeated death, He overcame the world; and with His Resurrection, gave us the hope and promise of a new and better future filled with everlasting joy.
The Risen Christ remains the one true source of lasting joy. Many seek joy through material or worldly things, which indeed may bring some happiness, but it is a superficial and temporary happiness at best. The Cross alone is the foundation of pure joy, a foundation which cannot be eroded by any sorrow. Jesus said to the disciples that their separation would be brief, that their sorrow would be temporary, but that their joy would last forever; “you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:22). No one or nothing can undo what Christ achieved for us on the Cross. It is unchangeable for eternity and offers an unparalleled joy that will never diminish.
Today we can all receive the perfect joy of the Risen Christ by staying in constant communion with our Lord, by opening our hearts and souls to Him, and praying without ceasing, for He says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Jesus is working to comfort us through the Holy Spirit, which gives us faith, strength, and patience to bear our struggles, and reminds us that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Our Lord Jesus Christ has the same comforting words for us today as He had for His disciples centuries ago. For a little while, and we will not see him, but in a little while, and we will see him, when He will return with great power and glory to reclaim His Kingdom and call all believers to be with Him for eternity.
During our Easter gatherings and celebrations, let us give thanks and praise to our Lord Almighty for the indescribable gift of His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ, Who endured untold suffering and gave His life so that we may be cleansed of sin and receive the promise and hope of overcoming our sorrows and entering into a life of joy in Him.
Let us remember especially our brothers and sisters in Syria, and particularly in Kessab, who are in deep distress by the upheaval of their once peaceful lives. Let us continue to pray for our loving and merciful God to protect them from harm and grant them the strength to bear their burdens with the faith and hope that in the near future their lives will return to some normalcy, and turmoil and sorrow will be replaced by peace and joy.
In this holy season and throughout all the days of the year, may we look deep into our hearts and souls and remove any and all negativity and despair, and in the example of St. Paul, may we rejoice always, in all circumstances proclaiming, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).
Happy Easter to all.
CHRIST HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD
BLESSED IS THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian
Prelate, Western United States