The future tense has always intrigued me. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I saw my first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in something like 4th grade. I’ve enjoyed science fiction in general for even longer. And I love reading magazines like Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and others that looked forward to the things that will be. Someday. Down the road. In the future. This afternoon, as I once again pick up my study of the word “joy” in Scriptures, I find myself in John 16, where Jesus tells His disciples in verse 16, “A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.” Understandably, the disciples were confused by this statement. They didn’t quite know how to process it. And so they began asking, debating, maybe even arguing amongst themselves about what Jesus meant. And His response contains a significant key about the nature of joy.

He said, now in verse 20, “I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” And then He went on, in verse 21, to provide the illustration of a woman in labor. As the delivery looms, she experiences excruciating pain and intense labor, and many stories have been told of women who go mad and scream all sorts of crazy things at those standing there, especially the baby’s dad. But then the baby comes, and there is nothing but smiles and kisses and cooing and love and joy for everyone.

Jesus was telling His disciples that, like the woman in labor, believers will experience trouble and pain, turmoil and more in the here and now. But all of that stuff begets – that is, gives birth to – a joy that, as Jesus says, “no one will rob you of.”

As believers, we may have to endure some tough stuff today. Even without persecution and abuse and all that stuff, the life of the believer can be painful as we strive for faithfulness in our own lives and work to witness to others. Who hasn’t known the agony of a friend or relative who is not yet saved despite our fervent efforts? And who hasn’t known the pain of giving up something we thoroughly enjoy to pursue obedience?

Truly, as Jesus said, “So you also have sorrow now.” But then He promised that the disciples – and we – will see Him again.

Notice that word “will.” It’s future tense, of course, but in the Greek language, verbs had various moods or voices that went along with the tense. One of these was the subjective tense, which generally conveyed the idea that something may – or should – happen. But this verb is what’s called indicative. Meaning that it wasn’t just a possibility. It was a certainty. The disciples – and we – will see Him again.

And at that reunion, our joy will be utterly complete, wholly irrepressible, and utterly theft-proof. And as I look down the road, it’s good to know that, however bad things may be right now, I will see Jesus again. And I will, on that day, have real joy. It makes it a little easier to get through the tough stuff right now. In fact, it makes it a little easier to have at least a measure of joy even in the midst of the tough stuff.

I suspect that’s what Jesus wanted His disciples to think.


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