Posted by: donnatallman | January 2, 2013

Exchanging Grief


John 15:11

Day Two: January 2, 2013, Wednesday

Verse to meditate on:

“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

I knew God was up to something last night when I set the alarm on my phone. For a fleeting second I considered setting the alarm for 5 o’clock instead of my usual 6. I could tell my heart was over-eager to get an early start. I couldn’t wait to hear what God had to say about the joy Jesus promised in John 15:11, but no alarm was needed. God woke me at 3:30.

Man, it’s early. Okay, I’m up. Where’s my glasses? Shoes? Forget my shoes; I’ll just wear socks. Groping my way through the dark hotel room with only my cell phone light for assistance, I proceed through my search and rescue operation until I think I’m fully clothed and in my right mind. Hopefully, I am. I gingerly creep by Steven trying not to whack his foot that’s hanging off the edge of the pullout bed. Into the hallway. Lights are bright. Close my eyes. Bad idea. Elevator button. Going down. Oops! Slip when I step on the polished lobby tile in my socks. Caffeine, where’s the caffeine?

Photo by Donna Tallman

Half Full

Generally, I’m an optimist. I prefer to think about growth rather than stagnation, success rather than failure, what’s good instead of what’s evil, conquering instead of suffering, and joy rather than sorrow. Selecting John 15:11 for one of the first verses of our Considering Jesus Challenge, was my way of starting the New Year off on a positive optimistic note.

Jesus intends for us to have joy – who doesn’t want that? I think focusing on joy is the perfect beginning for the New Year! As soon as I got my Bible out to read 15:11, my eyes wandered across to the left-hand side of the page to John, chapter 14, and then over to the right into chapter 16.

Oh, dear.

Jesus’ promise to fill his disciples with joy was set right into the middle of the disciples’ grief. Jesus had just told them that he was leaving them, he would be crucified, one of them would betray him, Peter would deny knowing him, and they all would scatter in fear after he died. Instantly, they were overwhelmed by sorrow.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Gone But Not Forgotten

How would the disciples endure the horrible hour of testing coming at them if Jesus wasn’t with them? Jesus gave them the answer even before they could form the question into words. The pathway through grief runs right through John, chapter 15 – abiding in Jesus. Jesus assured them that they would never be alone in their pain. He promised them his presence, his power, and his provision if they would abide in his love in the midst of their sorrow. He never condemned them for their sorrow and never told them to deny their pain. In fact, Jesus had already confessed his own pain to them back in John 12:27.

Jesus doesn’t ask or expect his followers to just “crank up joy” and be happy while they are grieving. No, he offers them an exchange instead. If they will abide in him, then Jesus will replace their sorrow with his joy so that they will never be empty, but always be full.

Jesus promises that the end result of our abiding in him is being filled with his joy.

“Truly, truly I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.” John 16:20

Their grief will be turned into joy…

He will fill them with his joy…

Understanding Jesus has made a way for us to be joyful in the midst of a season of grief was an unexpected revelation this morning. I tried to remember a time when I’d ever considered its possibility. No, I cut my teeth on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ “theology” of grief. She claimed there were five stages of grief that everyone goes through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

No joy found anywhere in that model.

Talk about depressing…

“Really God? Can we expect to experience joy when we are grieving?” I wondered aloud to the sun that was just breaking across the snow-covered ridge in front of me.

If you abide in Me, yes joy is possible even in your deepest sorrow. I’ve given you this promise so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Encouragement for your day

Several of my friends lost loved ones during the last days of 2012 and have entered the New Year in a season of grief. Some losses were expected after long and arduous illnesses, but others were shattering invasions of unexpected mortality leaving my friends reeling in agony. Each loss brought sorrow, grief, and introspection. And each loss brought pain.

This morning as I thought about those of you who are grieving new losses, Romans 15:13 came to mind to pray for you:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

My prayer for those who grieve this morning is that you will draw near to Jesus and abide in his intimate love for you. As you surround yourself with that love, may you experience the deep healing and hope that only he can give. As you allow Jesus to fill you with his joy, may the happy times with your loved one return to add comfort and consolation to your journey.

Praying strength for your journey today,


Verse for Tomorrow, January 3, 2013:

1 John 1:5  “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

© Copyright, 2013 by Donna Tallman.




  1. During a time of grieving in my own life, someone shared some very wise words with me; “embrace and focus on the pain”. By intentionally doing this the grief cannot manifest itself in anger, anxiety or depression. It also affords magnificent freedom and brings His sweet comfort.


    Sue G

    • One of the things that really encourages me when I’m in a season of grief is to know that Jesus knew grief as well. Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Not only does Jesus never leave me alone in my grief, he has already walked through it himself when he was on this earth. His strength and endurance in his humanity gives me hope, and his gift of the Holy Spirit gives me the power I need to face the pain before me. He’s faithful to resource us when we need it!

  2. Amen to your reply…The Lord comforted our family so much when our nephew’s life on earth was cut short; we experienced exactly what you said…He doesn’t leave us, and in addition, He pours out compassion in ways we could not have imagined. Since then, when praying for others going through grief, I’m reminded of how He comforted us, and it comforts me again, knowing He is comforting those I love.

    • Thanks for sharing, Doree…reminded me of the original “pay it forward passage in scripture: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

      Yes, God is so faithful…and continues to comfort us regardless of how much time has passed.

  3. “That your joy may be made full” is really an amazing phrase when you study the Greek. What Jesus was saying is that our joy would be completely filled to the brim, it would be liberally supplied, it would be made complete… I love that picture of a glass so full of [insert favorite beverage here!] if we move it one hair it will overflow. How wonderful is that?!

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