“A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.” Therefore some of His disciples said to one another, “What is this He tells us: ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’ ; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’ ? ” They said, “What is this He is saying, ‘A little while’ ? We don’t know what He’s talking about! ” Jesus knew they wanted to question Him, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’? “I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 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. So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy. In that day you will not ask Me anything. “I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name. I am not telling you that I will make requests to the Father on your behalf. For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” “Ah! ” His disciples said. “Now You’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. Now we know that You know everything and don’t need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe? Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” - John 16:16-33
It must have been devastatingly dark for the disciples on Holy Saturday. Earlier, in Gethsemane, “all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). On Friday, Jesus was executed. Now it was the day after the crucifixion. The day that the disciples had scattered, each to his own home (John 16:32). Each likely absorbed in his own grief, bewildered and afraid. It must have seemed like evil had won and that God was horrifyingly absent.
Jesus had warned them about these things many times (see Matt. 16:21; John 12:20–36), but the disciples hadn’t comprehended his words. In their sorrow on that Saturday, did they remember the unchanging and faithful character of God?
I know what it is to be absorbed in one’s own grief. Years ago, everything important to me unraveled in a period of months. My marriage, my health, and my children all seemed headed for disaster. In my sorrow, I felt utterly alone and abandoned even by God. I wanted to make sense of what God was doing, but I couldn’t. My story was still unfolding.
On Holy Saturday, the disciples were also in the middle of a story. On that day, everything looked hopelessly lost. They didn’t understand that the very next day, God would bring about the greatest, most spectacular event in history. Jesus would rise from the dead, just as he said. Everything the Lord had foretold would come true. God remained faithful to his word; his purposes could not and would not be thwarted.
In our lives as well, God is faithful. He is faithful to his word and to his plans. He is doing immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). At the time, we may not understand it, but our sorrow will one day turn to joy (John 16:20).
God had not forsaken the disciples and he will never forsake us. His steadfast love will endure forever (Ps. 136).
We are each in the middle of a story. We must trust God as it unfolds, knowing that he is ever faithful. As we rely upon God’s peace to overcome our doubts, we can rest on the rock-solid promise that because of the Cross, our story will have the happiest ending of all. One day we will see how our individual story fits into the magnificent story that God has been writing since the foundation of the world.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner is the author of The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering and is a regular contributor to Desiring God.