Charles Spurgeon once said that “The road to sorrow has been well trodden, it is the regular sheep track to heaven, and all the flock of God have had to pass along it.”1Charles Spurgeon, The Fainting Hero, MTP, Vol. 55 in Zack Eswine, Spurgeon’s Sorrows, 17. How is it that we get through the most difficult and painful of times and circumstances? What do we do in those moments and in those times that we don’t know what to do or we don’t know what to pray?
My wife and I recently went through a miscarriage and experienced pain and sorrow that we have never faced before. There are many questions we ask when we go through a tragic circumstance, when we experience pain that we have never experienced, or go through something unexpected. We may think in these moments that God is absent, that He does not care, that we brought this on ourselves, that God is not for us, but He is against us. And when we cry out to God it seems as if there is no answer and no help.
How do we get through these difficult and painful times? Where do we find hope, how do we find hope, and where do we turn to? In the midst of sorrow, in the midst of pain, we find help, comfort, and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Jesus was about to leave the disciples and go back to His Father, the disciples experienced great pain, sorrow, and loss. Jesus comforted His disciples by telling them He will turn their sorrow into joy. As Jesus was leaving the upper room with His disciples and heading toward the Garden of Gethsemane, He spoke these words, “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” (John 16:20).
Joy in the Holy Spirit
One way we can experience joy in the midst of suffering is by experiencing joy in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me” (John 16:16). Jesus was not only referring to His death and resurrection, that would certainly bring the disciples joy, but He was referring to something more, something better, something greater—He would come to them in the person of the Holy Spirit and be with them forever (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is our comforter, helper, and teacher (John 14:26).
How is it that we can have joy when we are going through a difficult and painful circumstance? Where do we find peace during the many sorrowful times in our lives? Through the Holy Spirit. He will give us joy, a joy that is not temporary, a joy that is not of this world, a joy that is supernatural, a joy that will uphold us and strengthen us during the most difficult of times (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 3:16).
Joy in the Cross of Christ
A second way we can experience joy in the midst of sorrow is by remembering and focusing on the cross of Christ. Jesus told the disciples that they will weep and lament and grieve but their sorrow will turn into joy (John 16:20).
The cross would cause there to be pain and sorrow and sadness for the disciples, but that very same event would be the cause of their rejoicing. It’s the cross of Christ that turns our sorrow into joy. The Lord promises us that if we repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation, we are reconciled to God and have eternal life.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross, for the joy that was set before Him, despising the shame. His joy was full, His joy was complete, He went to the cross, fulfilling the purposes of His Father perfectly and completely, knowing that the cross would bring to Himself the redeemed, and He found His joy in doing the will of the Father. Our joy comes from our perfect Savior doing what we could never do for ourselves by providing redemption and reconciliation to God for all who trust in Him.
Our sorrow is turned into joy knowing that our sins have been paid for, knowing that we have eternal life, knowing that we will be with Christ for all eternity, knowing we will be in perfect fellowship and communion with our Lord forever, that is what brings us joy and turns our sorrow into joy.
Joy in Answered Prayer
A final way we can have joy in the midst of sorrow is by having our prayers answered. Jesus said, “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” John 16:23-24).
When Jesus leaves His disciples, He tells them to pray and ask the Father for what they need, and the Father will give it to them. They have not asked up until this point because Jesus provided everything they needed, but when He leaves, they are to pray and ask the Father in His name and He will supply all they need. We are to do the same.
What should we pray for? We should pray for God’s glory, that His kingdom is advanced through the preaching of the gospel, that people would repent and turn to Christ for salvation. Additionally, we should pray for our sanctification, that we would become more like Christ on a daily basis, that we would reflect Him in our daily lives (Romans 8:28-29). Not only should we pray this for ourselves, but we should pray this for one another in the body of Christ. It should be our desire to see each other become more like Christ.
When we see prayer answered this way when we see the kingdom advance, when we see Christ glorified, we rejoice, no one will take our joy from us, and our joy is full and complete all because of Christ and what He has done for us.
We can have joy in the midst of sorrow when we turn to Christ, find satisfaction in Christ, knowing that He provides us with His Spirit who helps us, comforts us, and produces His joy within us.