The Pain Is Real, In Spite Of What Slappy-Happy Preachers Sell

Text: John 16:16-22

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Contrary to what positive motivational speakers say, life is not a careless walk on the beach. Contrary to what happy-slappy preachers say, life is not milk and honey.  There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there is no such thing as a gravy train, and there is no bed of roses.  But instead, things are wrong here on earth. They are so wrong that it causes serious problems for people. Life is lived in what is called a valley of tears.  That is to say, life on earth weighs heavily upon people with sorrow – and people feel it.

Now, perhaps the best way to describe this feeling that we have within this valley of tears is with the word, ‘pain.’ Yes, we experience pain in this valley of tears. For some, this pain is sadness. For others, it is a heaviness of the soul.  And others feel grief or affliction.  The point being, living our life in this valley of tears means that we all experience distress, sadness, grief, and affliction. 

But you may say, “Not everyone seems sad.  When I ask my neighbor how they are doing, they respond, ‘Good.’” 

Ah, my friends, let me tell you a little secret.  It is quite common that individuals who seem to be happiest are masquerading their sorrow.  Those who exude and project positivity are often doing so to offset their hidden pain. Like a balancing scale, people often try to balance their sorrow and pain with a positive and happy outlook.

But no matter how hard we all try, the fact remains that this life is so crooked that it cannot be made straight.  History repeats itself, life is not fair, there is nothing new, and in the end, everyone dies.

This is why we have pain and sorrow. And acknowledging today that we live in this valley of tears is not being pessimistic.  You see, positive motivational speakers and happy-slappy preachers are coming unglued at this point, crying out, “Stop being so pessimistic!”  But dear friends, we are not pessimistic but realistic.

In our reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus is not a pessimist when He tells His disciples that they will have pain.  Indeed, before His crucifixion, Jesus tells His disciples that they will weep and lament.  He tells them that they will have sorrow, grief, sadness, and heavy pain.  Now, Jesus did not forget to put on a happy face when talking to the disciples. He did not forget to pick out a pleasant outlook and spread sunshine all over the place. He did not forget to take off a mask of tragedy and brush off the clouds of gloom.  No, Jesus is clearing addressing the difficult reality that is disturbing the disciples’ minds. He is calling it as it is.  He is pointing out reality.  He is showing that the disciples could not comprehend the idea of Jesus, leaving them and going to the Father.

Dear friends, Christianity is not some sort of positive philosophical program. Christianity is not a bunch of happy slogans on the side of coffee cups. The church is not an enthusiastic pep rally rooted in superficial we-can-do-it cheers!  And Jesus is not some spiritual mascot with pom-poms and a megaphone cheering you on with a happy grin.  No!  Christianity is rooted in reality. Christians do not live in fairytales but look at life realistically.  Christians understand sorrow and pain and grief and distress. We know these things because we see the problem of sin in ourselves and the world. 

And so, just as the disciples experienced pain after Jesus’s crucifixion, being left in this world seemingly by themselves, we too experience pain and sorrow in this life.  Every day that we wake up, we experience attacks from the devil, the world, and our sinful old nature. And there is more; death is at work on every one of us. And so, we feel pain. We feel a heaviness upon our soul. From our birth to our last dying breath, we experience hardships, the daily grind, the struggle of the soul, the heaviness of life, and the chaos of sin.  And as already mentioned, speaking clearly about this pain is not being pessimistic but realistic. Again, Christianity is rooted in the reality of life within the valley of tears. 

So what’s the catch? What is the solution?

Well, Jesus and the Christian faith certainly do not teach you to put your head in the sand – hiding from the pains of life. Christ does not have you close your eyes to the sufferings of life, click your heels, while saying, “There is no place like home!” …as if wishful thinking will deliver you out of this valley of tears. But instead, Christ affirms to the disciples, and us, that we will indeed have pain in this life, but this pain will be only ‘a little while.’ 

Dear Baptized Christians, learn to say these words to yourself: ‘A little while.’ Yes, when the shadows of the valley of tears press in upon you, say, “a little while.”  Say, a little while, because you know that in a little while, it will all be over. It will all be over soon because Jesus promises to see you in His kingdom. After a little while, Jesus promises to come back and take you out of this valley of tears.  And when He does this, He will wipe away the tears from all eyes, and He will heal all the hurt. After a little while, He will give eternal joy to you.

You see, because you are baptized in Christ, you are a Christian, and as a Christian, you do not invest yourself in silly positive philosophical programs.  You do not put on a pretend happy face.  You do not frantically run from troubles as if you have no hope.  No!  You, instead, live in reality that this life is full of pain.  And as you live, you quietly wait for the Lord.  Yes, you wait for the hope of salvation, knowing that there is an end to the pain…  that there is an end to the valley of tears.

Baptized Saints, mark this right now! The godless world often throws a party as a way to distract itself from the troubles of life.  But you, yes you, you know that your sadness will develop into gladness in a little awhile.  You know reality – that Jesus has risen from the grave and will come back for you at the great last day.  And on that last day, you will be taken from this valley of tears to unspeakable joy of seeing Jesus and Jesus seeing you. 

And if you are tucked into your graves before Jesus returns, know this, in death the Lord pulls you to Himself and will resurrect you to eternal life. And when He does, oh, the laughter and unending joy. It will fill your heart and make you dance, and it will cause you to laugh and sing for eternity.

Dear Baptized Saints, do not lose heart and do not grow faint this day. Do not panic and do not fret. Be still this hour and be still at this moment; hear right now. The valley of tears does not last forever; there is an end to the valley. There is an end to the tears, an end to the suffering, an end to the persecution, an end to sin, an end to pain, and an end to the devil. It is only a little while. Be patient, wait it out, take courage!

And as you wait it out, dear Baptized Saints, to get you through, the Lord gives you His Word and Sacraments. Therefore, cling to the promises of God’s Word – the promises that are for you. Hang your body and soul upon His Word.

Continually receive the Sacrament of the Altar – that is given and shed for you.

Remember your Baptisms – where God’s name was placed upon your head and heart, marking you as one of the redeemed.

Patiently endure any misfortune, while comforting yourself with the truth that the Lord is with you. Jesus does not abandon you in the valley. Yes, comfort yourself with Jesus’ Word that this life is only a ‘little while.’ Know that as tough as it gets in this life that the Lord holds not only the beginning but the end of this world.

Baptized Saints, it is just a little while. And then you will see Jesus face to face your sorrows, sadness, and pain will be turned into joy.  A joy that no one will be able to rob from you. Joy like an overflowing river. A joy with unending confidence. A joy that is yours in Christ Jesus the Resurrected One.

It is only a little while. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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