“A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:21,22).
I HAVE BOTH HEARD THE CRIES OF AGONY IN THE DELIVERY ROOM AND SEEN THE TEARS OF ECSTASY IN THE RECOVERY ROOM. I don’t know which moves me more deeply, the agony or the ecstasy, but I know that in all the more important areas of life, you can’t have the latter without the former. Jesus knew that too. And so He told His disciples, “You now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”
Difficulty and hardship. Some people back away from these things, as if they were to be avoided at all costs. Other people, more wise, understand that the bigger the challenge, the deeper the satisfaction in overcoming it, and the more unpleasant the work, the better they feel at the end of the day. It’s tired people who enjoy rest, and it’s difficulty that makes us appreciate ease.
Suffering and sacrifice. There aren’t many people who aren’t hurting in some way, and while on a superficial level I wish it could be otherwise, on a deeper level I know what suffering and sacrifice have done in my life. Having felt serious pain, the relief that will be in heaven is going to mean a lot more. And having struggled against pain, the pleasure of heaven is going to be much sweeter. So if it takes suffering to do these good things, so be it.
In this body, we groan (2 Corinthians 5:2). It’s no fun, but anything that adds to our groaning right now simply means that heaven will be all the sweeter when it comes. How foolish we are to desire heaven as a place of rest and relief . . . without suffering anything in this life that we would need rest or relief from.
To the extent that our minds are fixed on heaven, this world will appear as little more than preparation for the one to come. Whatever ease and pleasure may be ours here, that should only whet our appetites for the real joys to come. And whatever difficulty or pain we may have to deal with while “on the job,” that should only increase our capacity to enjoy “quittin’ time.”
“The early Christians were so much in that other world that nothing which happened to them in this one seemed very important” (Hannah Hurnard).