Yesterday afternoon, I watched my best friend board an airplane that is taking her to Europe for a year. I plan to visit, but I won’t be able to get there until the last part of June, assuming my workload even allows me to go. So it will be upward of five months before I get to hug her again. This is a major change considering she has spend nearly every other weekend at my house or with me in some form or another for the better part of two years.
If you’ve never had a friend who can finish your sentences, read your mind, or understand everything you haven’t said out loud, I don’t know if you can understand how empty the prospect of life without them close is. But God is good and has given me so many wonderful, awesome, incredible other friends–and we’re all friends with each other, so we can commiserate her leaving en masse!
I was marveling this morning because the entire event of her going out there is such a mixed bag of emotions. I miss her. Intensely. I was joking with her last night over Skype that I sort of randomly burst into tears at every other inanimate object that reminds me of her. I was in the store and saw flowers and thought of her and cried. Still in the store, I was in the produce area and saw vegetables and remembered she hates them and cried. I think I teared up in seven different sections of the grocery store, and I’m sure everyone around me was wondering what on earth was so sad about biscuits!
But at the same time, even though I’m torn up about her not being here, I’m so excited for her that I can hardly contain it. She gets to travel all over Europe, one of the most empty countries, so many people with no hope and no life, and the thought of all the joy that God has used her to bring in my life being implemented in such a hopeless field makes me so eager for her to get over there.
And I thought about how strange it is that in the blink of an eye, because of God, something that is heart-wrenchingly sad can become something immensely joyful.
Today’s verse is John 16:20.
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.
This is Jesus talking to the disciples, His “unlearned and ignorant” followers. If you read the whole passage, it’s kind of entertaining. The disciples are all so much like us, it’s really not even funny. But in this verse, Jesus is talking about what is going to happen to Him. He’s talking about how He will be crucified, how He will be tortured, how He will be killed.
But He was trying to prepare them, not just for the fact that He would be killed, but that His death wasn’t the end. Yes, they were going to grieve when He died, but He wasn’t going to stay dead. And after He rose again under His own power, there would be cause for great rejoicing.
Only God can take something so sad and turn it into something worth rejoicing over.
We can’t do that. That’s not an ability we possess. We aren’t strong enough to take a terrible situation and find hope in it without the influence of God in our lives. Maybe we can guess that it might work out okay. Or maybe we can pick some random ethereal feel-good concept out of the air and hope it will happen. But only God allows us to know that things will be all right.
So whatever is changing in your life, if you follow Christ, whether you’re moving jobs or moving friends or moving countries, you can know that God is working things out. And you can know it because He’s told us. And even the sad things in life aren’t going to stay sad, because God is a God who can turn sorrow into happiness.
It’s not wrong to mourn. It doesn’t make you a bad Christian to be sad, especially when someone you love isn’t around as much. For me it’s like losing my left hand. I’m a righty, so I can still function but life won’t be as easy for a little while until I adapt. But if you trust God, if you believe what He said, no matter what situation or circumstance you find yourself in this morning, He’s going to use it to help you and to help others around you and to bring glory to Himself. That’s what being a Christian is.
So it’s okay to be sad because God’s got lots of tissues, and one of these days, He’s going to wipe the tears away and they won’t come back. But until then, tears are okay. But don’t let them take over because you’ll need some tears left for when the sorrow turns to joy.