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Suffering is for a Little While

 Suffering is for a little while, then your sorrow will turn to joy.

Suffering is for a little while, then your sorrow will turn to joy.

Jubilate 2016

Text: John 16:16-22

Grace and Mercy to you from God our Father,

and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

          The world wants you to be comfortable – to feel at ease. The devil wants you to feel that this world is your true home and this devil is your true father. And you have listened to him all too often. You have put your earthly comfort over your heavenly well-being. You have listened with rapt attention to paternal advice of the Father of Lies. You have acted as if that one was your real father when you lied to get ahead, when you resented the lot given to you, when you coveted, and stole, and lashed out at everybody but yourself.

    Repent. This world is not your home. It just isn't. It will pass away, you will die, and then a lifetime of a much longer duration will start. And besides, you would want this world as your real home anyway. It was a blessing, not a curse, that God tossed Adam and Eve out of the garden after their sin. God did not want them eating of the Tree of Life in that state: God did not want them to live forever in a world marred by sin, and disease, and corruption. Your real home is with your real Father: the Father who gave you new birth in Holy Baptism. The Father who put his Name on you. You are his. He is yours. The Father’s home is your home – and this world isn't it.

    So behold what Jesus says to you in the Gospel lesson today. Jesus says it will be a little while in which this world will rejoice and you will have sorrow – but in a little while your sorrow will turn to joy. If your road now seems so long, if your hardship now seems too much, if your heart feels as though it will never mend, if your faith feels like it is crumbling: listen to Jesus. In a little while this will pass away. In a little while Jesus will bring you his resurrection victory. So learn from Jesus the patience of Christian endurance. Learn that your hope is in Jesus alone. Learn to offer up all your sufferings to Jesus as sacrifices of praise and glory.

    All that is to say: learn from Jesus to shout for joy in the midst of this broken world. That is the lesson of today's Divine Service. Amidst these difficult words of Jesus and St. Peter about the harshness of the world and the Christian struggle in this life, the Psalm tell us to shout for joy. It does not tell us to plaster on a plastic smile and just be happy – that is another thing. Being happy comes and goes. Some days I'm happy with my children – when they pick up their toys and treat each other well; and some days I'm unhappy with them as they annoy me with their fighting and bickering. But I always rejoice in them. Joy runs deeper than happiness. Joy knows how to frown and cry. Joy is not fleeting. Your Joy is Jesus. Jesus is the Rock and Foundation on which you stand. So long as you have Jesus, you have the promise of eternal life, of a happy ending at the finish of a hard-fought struggle, of going home to your Father.

    As Jesus himself says, it like a woman in labor: for at that time all is pain and sorrow caused by the curse of the Law – for recall that Eve's pain in childbearing was the result of her fall into sin. So likewise with the whole Christian life, this world is broken and cursed due to the transgression of the Law and so is now full of hardship and pain. But like a woman in child labor you struggle toward a joyous goal. When this goal is reached, when you can look at your lives from the other side of the struggle, then you will see the labor and the struggle transformed by the grace and joy of Christ.

    So dear Christian, in your struggles and hardships, in bearing your crosses, and learning to repent with eyes toward Christ, you have this sure hope of eternal joy. And what is more, you even have a foretaste of your Father's kingdom. For Jesus has not left you as orphans. Jesus has not abandoned you to your own spiritual resources. No. Jesus comes to you again and again and even today as Jesus feeds you His Body and pours into you His Blood that were broken and shed in his great struggle against the world. This Sacrament of the Altar is the sustenance and nourishment for the soldiers of the cross, for those who labor against the world and long for the world to come. It is the salvation of Christians and brings life everlasting. If you feel beaten up by the world; if you feel hemmed in on every side by suffering; if you sense your brokenness and know you need healing: come receive Jesus. Let Jesus who has overcome the world fill you with His life – and you shall overcome it too, and your sorrow will turn to joy.