Is There Joy? (John 16:16-24)

            Joy is evasive, even for the believer. In a contemporary culture, amidst the skepticism and the violence and the critical nature of the human individual, joy is scarcely attainable. We live in a society that is riddled with depression and anger and discontent, yet we long for joy. In scripture, we are told that Christ is our ultimate joy and that true joy is attainable in Christ. Why is it that even the Christian cannot seem to find joy in this world that we live in? Is it possible for an unbeliever to even experience joy?

Like a can of soda that has been shaken, joy explodes from within an individual and is contagious to all. It is not a term synonymous with happiness, for there are some things in this world that no one should be happy about. Joy comes from a source within the heart of the individual and can be reflected in our attitude even in the midst of negative circumstances.

“A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.”

Therefore some of His disciples said to one another, “What is this He tells us: ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What is this He is saying, ‘A little while’? We don’t know what He’s talking about!”

Jesus knew they wanted to question Him, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’?

“I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is in labor she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy. In that day you will not ask Me anything.

“I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

Christ’s prediction

            “A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.” It seems that Jesus, here, is predicting His death and resurrection and ascension. Remember that Christ knew when He would give His life for people and He knew when God would raise Him from the grave. It seems also that Christ knew when He would be taken from the earth to sit at the right hand of the Father. Here, Jesus is telling His disciples that soon He would no longer be with them, but that He would return. His disciples did not understand.


End to suffering

            The truth of the matter, for the disciples, is that they would soon be without the man who taught them, who lived with them, who saved them and who led them into the kingdom of God. They would be robbed of joy because their best friend and teacher would be crucified and, later, would not be on the earth at all. These disciples would suffer because they would, in all practical language, lose the one that they held most dear.

This is not the end, though. The Gospels recount Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Upon discovering Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples were ecstatic. They were full of joy. Then Christ walked the earth for forty days and went to be with the Father. Soon after, the book of Acts tells of how the Holy Spirit came down to live in every believer. This may be the return Christ talked about. Because of the Holy Spirit, we no longer ask the incarnate Christ for anything. All of our petitions and our prayers and our struggles and our concerns are heard directly by the Father.[1]

Because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives we can have a joy that is based entirely on the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit. We have been made right according to God and rely on God for the joy that is in us. The world cannot take that away.

The reality for the Western Christian is that we rely so heavily on things other than God to make our joy complete. We rely on money. We rely on education. We rely on entertainment. We rely on athletics. We rely on material possessions. We rely on friendships. We rely on church. While the joy we may find in these things can reflect the joy that God gives, true inextinguishable joy can only be found in Christ. When we base our joy in Christ:

  1. Our relationships do not suffer when we are unhappy because we do not rely on friends for the joy that we have in our lives.
  2. We still work just as hard at what we do. Our jobs and the sports that we play do not suffer because we do not rely on those things for the joy that only Christ can provide.
  3. When we cannot have what we want or seem not to make enough money, we are content because our joy is found in Christ.

Concept of the Trinity

It is truly exhausting to attempt to fathom the very nature of God. Here, when Christ refers to His own return, He is either speaking of His resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, or His second coming at the time of judgment. Since, in Acts, we read about the great joy that believers had when the news of Christ’s resurrection spread and even after his ascension on the way to Jerusalem[2] and the joy that came with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit[3] in the community of believers. It is possible that Jesus was predicting both His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, who is one with Christ. Indeed, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. They cannot be separated and it is no surprise that, after declaring the Godhood of the Son, or the Word, in the beginning of His letter, that John would declare the Godhood also of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I do so wish to have a greater capacity to understand God’s nature.

In Christ

In the things that we do, we now do in Christ. Just a few verses later, Jesus declares that all people will have tribulation, or trouble, in the world. Because He has overcome the world, those who are in Him can have joy even through tribulation (vv.33). Joy is not happiness. There are things in the world that we should not be happy about. In us, Christ’s joy is complete. In Christ, we belong to the Father. How great is it that we have the privilege of addressing God in Christ’s name? How great of a privilege is it that we get to live in Christ’s name? Without Christ, nothing worthwhile is possible. Without Christ, our joy cannot be complete.

[1] There is only one God, who seems to exist in three persons: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is one of the great mysteries concerning the character and nature of God and is either by His own design or more likely is reflective of God’s eternal nature.

[2] Luke 24:52

[3] Acts 2:47

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