Skip to content
April 21, 2024

Sorrow’s Strings No Longer Control You

Passage: John 16:16-22

“I have no strings to hold me down, to make me fret, to make me frown. I had strings, but now I’m free. There are no strings on me.” Perhaps you recognize this lyric? It’s a song written by Leigh Harline, and it comes from the classic Disney rendition of the Italian fable Pinocchio. If you recall, the tale is about a puppet who, after a long, educational journey, becomes a real boy.

The song stanza just quoted well describes the theme of the tale, and it bears deeply serious themes concerning sadness and confusion. Would you ever expect that to come out of a children’s movie? Strings holding you down, making you fret, and making you frown. Strings are a good way to describe sorrow. When we are sorrowful, there usually is a reason for it, and that reason is the very thing controlling the strings. Sorrow and its culprit grab a hold of you as if you were a puppet, pulling you around to sadness and confusion. Yes, we have strings, for we experience sorrow. But these strings are cut every time we experience real joy. Our sorrow has been turned to joy, just as the disciples of our sermon text. And from this text we find the theme: “Sorrow’s strings no longer control you,” for your sorrow has been turned into joy through Your Savior’s resurrection and ascension. And no one can take this joy from you.

(we pray…)

So, to understand the freedom from sorrow’s burdensome strings that our joy in Christ gives us, we must first understand just how much suffering and what kind of suffering sorrow’s strings can give us. As we look to the disciples of Jesus as an example, we see that the suffering they endured bears a nature of confusion and painful sadness. Our sermon text for this morning happened in the upper room on Maundy Thursday evening. Jesus was laying out to His disciples the itinerary for the weekend, “"A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” The disciples were anxious and embarrassed to ask Jesus. They tried to figure about among themselves. “Is He leaving us? Where is He going?” “What’s this ‘little while’?” What is this ‘Go to the Father’?” We don’t know what He is saying?” Their anxious confusion, one part of the string of sorrow, was already beginning. Jesus has explained this part of His work to the disciples multiple times, and He would so again; but the disciples would not truly get it. They were never fully understanding of Jesus’ statements until after the resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost. The disciples with anxious confusion sorrowed over these words, trying to figure them out. And this would just be the beginning. “Why is Jesus going to die? Why is He just giving up like this?” Confusion and misunderstanding then, as shown by the disciples, are part of the deadly effects of the strings of sorrow.

The other part of the strings of sorrow are then described in Jesus’ explanation. Jesus, as He so often does, explains His words to the disciples to help them understand. He knows they are too embarrassed to ask, so He tells them that they will lament and weep, and the world will rejoice—referring to Good Friday. They will see their Lord die, and the Jews, representing the sinful world, will have their fill. The disciples would during this time experience immense, painful sadness in their strings of sorrow. A combination of this confusion and painful sadness would then drive the disciples to lock themselves in a room, not knowing what to do.

This pain that the disciples felt is about as bad as it gets when it comes to the strings of sorrow, and thank God, because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we don’t have to experience this level of pain in the same way the disciples did. But don’t the strings of sorrow often try to reattach themselves to us? We still, day to day, feel their effects trying to creep back in. In reading all our scripture readings for this Sunday—the pains of Jeremiah’s lamentation after watching his nation fall, the frustrating circumstances of Peter’s audience who had to be subject to a heathen government, and the pain of the disciples watching their Lord die—these Christian examples through these circumstances underwent confusion and pain. They didn’t get why God would let these things happen, and they hurt a lot. Are there not circumstances in your lives where we feel the same way? In our states of confusion haven’t we questioned why God would let certain things happen, and in our pains don’t we feel tremendous sorrow?

What then are we to do with these strings of sorrow? There’s only one thing a person can do to forever get rid of the strings of sorrow, and that one way is Jesus. All human attempts to get rid of sorrow may at most seemingly get rid of confusion and painful sadness for a time, but eventually the strings of sorrow come back. Our remedy must be eternal if we want it to really work. To illustrate the negative, if Jeremiah leaned on Himself instead of the Lord’s mercies made anew every morning, if Peter’s Christian audience leaned on themselves to alleviate the pain and confusion of living with a heathen society, if Jesus’ disciples tried to move on from Jesus’ death by making something up themselves, well they would be puppets of darkness, never in control. No, the strings must be cut by Jesus.

And, praise be to God, they are cut off from us by Jesus Christ. Sorrow’s strings are no longer on you. And so, back to the confused disciples of the upper room, Jesus explains with His ever clarifying words, "Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said,`A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me '? 20 "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 "A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 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.”

Jesus promises to them that He will cut the strings of sorrow so that these strings may no longer take their vice grip on them and take away their joy. And Jesus certainly did this. Imagine the strings being cut. On one side of the puppet vexed by sadness stands the strings of confusion. What did Jesus do with those as regards His twelve disciples? The disciples were so confused. Their master was dead. This was the guy they dropped their jobs for. This was the guy they thought had the words of eternal life. This was the guy they called the Christ, the Son of the living God. They were so confused, for He was now dead. But that confusion only lasted a little while, until the strings of sorrow were cut. Jesus appeared to them saying, “My peace I give to you.” He rose from the dead and made His point clear. There was no more confusion concerning who the disciples were following. Thomas said it best, “My Lord and My God.” Jesus is certainly that. And if so, that means He saved them. That means He saved you. His resurrection dispels any confusion concerning who He is and what He has done for you. He is God and Man in one being, sent to live a perfect life and offer it up as a sacrifice to save you. He has taken away all the sins you have committed, the real reason for sorrow. These strings are cut, and in turn the strings of confusion are cut as well.

So those strings are cut, and the strings on the other side of the sad puppet’s life are cut as well. The strings of painful sadness have been severed as well. Jesus is risen from the dead, and now the pain is forgotten. Demonstrating this once more, the disciples’ sorrow from Good Friday to Easter was compared to the pains of childbirth. In the moment it was brutal, but afterwards a joyous occasion occurred. The disciples’ pains, I don’t even want to imagine what they were thinking during that sad Saturday, but those unimaginable thoughts were quickly dispersed and forgotten. Jesus is Risen, and their pains are gone. Jesus then goes to the Father. In a few weeks we will explore what that means, namely His ascension. And this, the Ascension, would be the joyous memento that would remind the disciples of the joy that can never be taken from them. Their Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus showed to them that they too will rise and ascend to Heaven. This is their eternal joy which cuts the strings of sorrowful sadness for good.

So then, what about the strings that are on you? What about your strings of confusion? Those have been cut by your risen Lord. You have been given clarity through the Resurrection of Jesus for your confusion. To demonstrate, perhaps you have had confusion like Jeremiah. Perhaps you wonder why painful things happen to you? Perhaps you may even go as far as to think you are being punished for your wrongdoings and that God doesn’t want you? That’s just simply not true. Jesus’ resurrection gives you clarity in that department. He, the Son of God who gave His life for you by dying to satisfy the justice of His Father, is living! This means that Jesus succeeded, and it means that God does want you. He is not punishing you either, but He may be disciplining you. And discipline isn’t a bad thing, for it makes you stronger. God wants you to be stronger in faith, and He does that by bringing you trials that may be confusing. And if you find yourself in a confusing trial, remember—Jesus rose from the dead. God wants you, and He shows you that through your risen Lord.

Perhaps you have confusion like the audience of Peter’s epistle. Why do you have to comply in such a sinful world? Why do you have to follow an awful ruler or boss? Peter says so that the unbeliever may see your good deeds and glorify your father in Heaven. In your confusion in this matter, know that through your actions you may bring your unbelieving and struggling neighbors closer to hearing the Word that creates faith in the Risen Lord. Your strings are cut, why can’t theirs be too?

And finally, like the disciples, know that Jesus will make all confusions clear in His timing. He is Risen, and what matters based on that is that you will rise one day too, rise to eternal glory. In the meantime, all your confusions may on the one hand be explained quickly by Jesus’ Word in the Bible, or on the other hand, they may not be explained until you leave this world to Heaven. For now, just know that Jesus’ doesn’t leave you in the darkness with strings attached. He gives you peace with God, the real calmness of heart and mind, body and soul, and this He does in His resurrection.

And what about your strings of painful sadness? Those have also been cut by your ascended Lord. You have been given clarity here as well through the Ascension of Jesus for your painful sadness. Once again, Jeremiah says that it is good for one to wait for the salvation of the Lord. The Lord will deliver you from evil as we so ask in the Lord’s Prayer. He will deliver us from painful sadness. He has given us eternal joy that can never be ripped away from us. He will deliver you from pain in His time, for He promises you eternal reprieve in Heaven. Jesus ascended there, and so will you.

And the pains that come from living in a sinful world, those are alleviated as well through Christ’s promise. He has overcome the world, and if you suffer in this world even when you do good, know that God finds that pleasing. If you suffer as a Christian, it doesn’t mean God is wrong. We know He is right, and we know that the truthful God is also our gracious God. He gives us joy. He will vindicate you one day by bringing you home to heaven, and He will even lead your fruits to impress onto others a curiosity to hear about the joy you have that will never go away, a joy your neighbors could have.

And as for the example of the disciples, Jesus tells them that their sorrow has turned to joy, and their joy will never be taken from them. Through the same risen and ascended Lord Jesus, you know that your sorrow has been turned to joy as well. You no longer must endure hell. You no longer must think that you are all alone in this world. You now have a God to pray to. You now know where all your blessings come from. You now know the God of truth and stability, who guides you in such and unstable, deceitful world. You know that you have been forgiven and remade, made valuable in Christ Jesus. And You now know that you will one day be delivered to eternal joys in Heaven. Jesus is risen and ascended, and this will never be taken from you.

Yes, you once had strings of sorrow, and now they are cut. Living in this world, we will be tempted to have these strings reattach, but through Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, we know that sorrow’s strings are no longer on you, and your joy no one will take from you. Amen.