It is difficult to wait for the promise of some good bit of news to come to pass. Whether it’s a vacation, a love, a promotion, a Messiah, or dessert – the waiting itself can make the wished for thing seem unreal and distant. Scripture acknowledges this common human experience by saying: Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick…Proverbs 13:12a Christian hope is one of the virtues. Hope hangs on in the face of contrary emotions and the slow tick of the clock.
As the disciples listen to Jesus he does nothing to invalidate the very tortured emotions involved with waiting. He says this: “When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you.” ~John 16:21,22 At the risk of sounding insensitive to the agony of childbirth, I’ll march ahead. However, I shall wisely hide behind Jesus since it is his analogy!
Hope is what gives a mother the stamina to endure the pain. At the end of the ordeal is a precious, innocent child that has been knit together in his or her mother’s womb. As the pain subsides it loses its power to define the moment. It now doesn’t matter. The face, contorted with misery just a few moments earlier, is now transformed with joy. The mother has met this remarkable creation for the first time. As Jesus said, “This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain.”
Jesus has just delivered quite a lot of labor pain news to his disciples. He has told them that they are probably not going to live to enjoy their golden years. He himself is about to exit the stage. And yet, at the end of it, a new life will come forth that will produce an unspeakable, unshakable, and everlasting joy. Within the space of just a few days they will witness Christ’s crucifixion followed soon after by his resurrection. This will be a serious inoculation against future hopelessness. They’ll each have witnessed the dress rehearsal for their own impending encounter with death. And the resurrection will prove to them Jesus’ promise that this labor-like ordeal will have been worth it.
Earlier, I only gave the first portion of that passage from Proverbs. Let’s read the whole verse and it will make our point for today: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12