Your Invitation to the Party
I'm about to go middle school awkward, but I'm 46, and it still hurts! Back in the day, they called middle school, "junior high." Junior high was 2 years of academic purgatory for pre-teens. I digress. But in my 7th-grade year of junior high, there was a party, and I wasn't invited. Did that ever happen to you? Probably not if you somehow avoided that "not quite sure what to do with my hair, body out of proportion, pot-belly phase" that I went through in junior high. And then they slapped braces on my teeth. That helped. To this day, the words "junior high" still recall feelings of insecurity. The vision of Hell in the Bible is frightening, but being sent back to junior high for an eternity would be hell enough.
No matter how old you are it is difficult to deal with not being invited. There are a lot of people who hear of the joy of the Lord but feel uninvited. Perhaps it is because you read the Bible, and then you look at your life, and you see two conflicting visions. You read in the Bible, "the joy of the Lord is our strength" but you deal with a day in which there is no joy, there seems to be no God, and you have nothing left - no strength. If joy is a surprise party in the midst of our sorrow, you feel uninvited.
I want to point you to two verses in the Bible that will assure you of two things. 1) Joy is indeed a surprise party in the midst of your sorrow. It is an interruption to weeping that only God can provide. 2) You are invited.
Both of the verses were spoken by Jesus, and they come in an unexpected context.
Invitation #1 - Joy Despite Trouble
The first one comes on the heels of an event that for the apostles feels like it could not have gone any better, Jesus' triumphal entry (John 12). And then Jesus begins to tell them about some things that are about to happen that could not sound any worse. He told them he was going to die (John 12:33). One of the 12 would betray him (John 13:21-30). Peter would deny him (John 13:36-38).
Jesus describes their reaction to all of this as a troubled heart. "Let not your hearts be troubled (John 14:1a)." The word trouble is a translation of a word that also describes turbulent, chaotic white water. It's the kind of water you see in a raging river. It is uncontrollable, and it will sweep you away. White water is an amazing thing to see cascading down out of a mountain, but that's a bad thing to have going on in your heart.
So to help them in their trouble, Jesus teaches them about the Father and about His oneness with the Father (John 14:1-14). He teaches them about the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-31). He gives them the fantastic teaching of His relationship to them from this point forward being like a vine is to the branches (John 15:1-10). And then here it comes. Jesus interrupts "trouble" and issues an invitation into joy.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.John 15:11
Invitation #2 - Joy Despite Sorrow
The second one comes after Jesus tells them that He is leaving them and that the world will hate them (John 15:18-16:4). The word that Jesus uses to describe their reaction to this is "sorrow." "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful (John 16:20a)."
Jesus then assures them that despite the appearance of defeat in his death and in their persecution, that he has overcome the world (John 16:25-33). He then begins to pray for them (John 17). And then comes the interruption to sorrow with joy. "But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:13)."
The Surprise of Joy
So let's now assess what we have found this week about how joy suspends sorrow.
- Nehemiah 8:10 - Nehemiah calls an end to the people's mourning and weeping because "the joy of the Lord is your strength."
- John 15:11 - Jesus interrupts the apostle's troubled heart by telling them that he shared these things with them so that "my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full."
- John 17:13 - Jesus warns them of coming circumstances that will make them sorrowful, but he prays that they may have his joy in the midst of it, "that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves."
Now here is where you feel uninvited. You are not paying attention to the address of the party. If you don't get this in your GPS, you'll drive to the wrong place. The host of the party is a happy God. The venue for the party is mourning, trouble, and sorrow.
A lot of people think that it is our Savior's business to save them from a troubled life. It is not. You make a major heretical mistake if you believe that the Son of God must exempt you from sorrow. That is not His calling. If you think that your weeping means that you somehow missed the party, take heart, you're in the right place. It is there that His joy becomes your strength.
Every Mother Knows Sorrow to Joy
To illustrate the nature of His joy, Jesus offers an illustration familiar to all of us, the birth of a child (John 16:16-24). For the mother, it is called labor. She is in agony. The pain of childbirth brings with it a sense of sorrow (John 16:21). This is going to hurt, and it is going to be hard. But when the child is born, notice how quickly sorrow turns to joy. "She no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world (John 16:21b)."
Jesus' joy is now and later. The later helps the now. Later, Jesus will return for His people. He will call an end to sorrow and make all things new. When he returns it will change the nature of everything (John 16:22-24). That later helps us now. His commitment to us. His Spirit in us. His plan for us. It is our open invitation into His joy.
From time to time, you need to pull out that invitation in the venues of weeping, sorrow, and trouble. Pull out that invitation and take shelter in the Lord. Allow His joy to throw a surprise party right in the middle of your sorrow. Your circumstances are not because you missed the party. Your circumstances are the venue. "Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24)."
You have an open invitation. It's time to party.
If you've ever been invited to a party the next question is inevitably, what can I bring? Subscribe to BrianBranam.com and find out in the next post.
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Read John 16:16-24.
- Write out the commands to be obeyed (whether mentioned in the text or implied by the text).
- Write out the promises to be believed.
- Write out the principles to be applied.
In this post, we found that our difficult circumstances are not an indication that we have missed God's invitation to joy, but instead, they are the venue of God's joy. Journal 10 reasons for joy that the Lord gives despite your current circumstances.