Consider this from Jesus:
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. | John 16:21 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
That is the way it is. There is always pain but we forget the pain. All we experience is the pure joy of a new life.
One of the recurring themes in this section of John is joy. The Eleven were certainly not experiencing much joy that night! But what Jesus said to them eventually made a difference in their lives, just as it can make a difference in our lives today. Tenderly and patiently, our Master explained how His people can have joy in their lives.
The principle is simply this: God brings joy to our lives, not by substitution, but by transformation. His illustration of the woman giving birth makes this clear. The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy. In birth, God does not substitute something else to relieve the mother’s pain. Instead, He uses what is there already but transforms it.
Every parent knows what it is like to have an unhappy child because a toy is broken, or a playmate has gone home. The parent can do one of two things: substitute something else for the broken toy or absent friend or transform the situation into a new experience for the unhappy child. If Mother always gets a new toy for the child each time a toy is broken, that child will grow up expecting every problem to be solved by substitution. If Mother always phones another playmate and invites him or her over, the child will grow up expecting people to come to his rescue whenever there is a crisis. The result either way is a spoiled child who will not be able to cope with reality.
The way of substitution for solving problems is the way of immaturity. The way of transformation is the way of faith and maturity. We cannot mature emotionally or spiritually if somebody is always replacing our broken toys.
Jesus did not say that the mother’s sorrow (pain) was replaced by joy, but that the sorrow was transformed into joy. The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy! And so, it is in the discipleship life: God takes seemingly impossible situations, adds the miracle of His grace, and transforms trial into triumph and sorrow into joy.
- Luke 1:13–15 — 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 “For he will be great in the sight of the Master; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.
- Genesis 30:12–13 — 12 Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “Happy am I! For women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
- Luke 1:58 — 58 Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Master had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.