John 16: 20-22
20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, the image of a woman giving birth is often used to express great pain. It is also often used, especially by the prophets, to signify the birth of the new messianic people – see, for example, Isaiah. Jesus recalls both the pain of the Old Testament and the hope and fulfilment expressed through the prophets. The new birth is imminent. Through the sorrow and pain of the crucifixion, we are called to God.
Jesus, then, in these verses, uses both a familiar, everyday analogy to help the disciples understand what is happening, and draws on the language and understandings of the Old Testament to show how he is the fulfilment of the prophecies.
Jesus reassures his disciples, and his message of reassurance is also for us. Inevitably, there are times when we sorrow in this life. We know, however, that Christ is with us. And we will see Christ fully when we pass from this life, and that joy will have no end.
‘12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.’ St Paul’s Letter to the Romans