I asked several friends what their most difficult, painful experience in life had been. Their answers included war, divorce, surgery, and the loss of a loved one. My wife’s reply was, “The birth of our first child.” It was a long and difficult labor in a lonely army hospital. But looking back, she said she considers it joyful “because the pain had a big purpose.”

Just before Jesus went to the cross, He told His followers they were about to go through a time of great pain and sorrow. The Lord compared their coming experience to that of a woman during childbirth when her anguish turns to joy after her child is born (John 16:20-21). “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (v.22).

Sorrow comes to us all along the road of life. But Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2), purchased forgiveness and freedom for all who open their hearts to Him. His painful sacrifice accomplished God’s eternal purpose of opening the way to friendship and fellowship with Him.

The joy of our Savior outweighed His suffering, just as the joy He gives us overshadows all our pain.