(21) A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
(22) So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:21–22, NIV
Dear Father in heaven, grant us your Spirit so that here on earth we may be united with you in Jesus Christ the Savior. May truth dawn on us with its light, bringing joy no matter what happens to us. May all the pain in our lives be turned into birth pangs of a new life in which we can rejoice as people you have created, people prepared for the struggle on earth, who are called into battle and led to victory. Grant that we may not be blinded by the surrounding darkness. Shed a clear light on the new life that is coming. May we see what has already happened because Jesus Christ came to the earth and remains on earth, and may we see what is still to come through him, the Savior. O God of wonders, keep us aware of the wonders that increasingly surround us, until all the pain on earth is finally overcome and we men glorify your love and your great goodness. Amen.
The context of the words of John 16:21–22, NIV
John 16:16–24 once again reminds the disciples that Christ must suffer and die for the sins of the world (Mark 8:31). The days ahead will be especially dark and frightening for those who so closely followed Jesus. Yet the outcome will be powerful and world changing. Jesus explains this using the analogy of childbirth. The process of giving birth is painful—but the reward is immeasurably valuable. Afterwards, joy over the new birth far outweighs memories of the painful birth process.
Throughout His teaching in the Last Supper (John 13:1–5), Jesus has often brought up the fact that He's giving His followers advance warnings (John 13:19; 14:25). His intent is to provide encouragement—persecution as a result of their faith is inevitable. In keeping with that reassurance, Jesus again promises the coming of the Holy Spirit. He explains that after a time of deep sorrow, His followers will experience great joy and clarity. This concludes with a beloved promise that Christ has "overcome the world."
Meaning of the words
"A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world"
This analogy is part of Jesus' reassurance to His closest disciples. This statement is being made near the end of His teaching at the Last Supper (John 13:1–5). Soon Jesus will be arrested (John 18:1–3) and crucified (John 19:18). Though He will be resurrected (John 20:19), the days in between will be filled with fear and anguish for these men. In addition, Jesus has warned them—and, by extension, all future believers—about the persecution to be expected from the unbelieving world (John 16:1–3). His reason for the warning is so they don't respond to those events in panic or surprise (John 16:4).
Most recently, Jesus has referred to the deep sorrow these men will experience, accompanied by the sadistic joy of the unbelieving world (John 15:21; 16:20). The uplifting aspect of this message is that their intense pain will soon turn into even-more-intense celebration. The analogy Christ uses here is that of a woman in childbirth.
Of course, Jesus is not suggesting a woman who has given birth literally does not remember it happened. In fact, it's a cliché for mothers to remind children of the pain of labor, when the child is being unruly. The point in this passage is those negative experiences are immediately outweighed by the joy of the newborn baby. The birthing experience is intense, agonizing, and even frightening. Yet, in comparison to the love of a child, birth pain is relatively short-lived and more easily set aside.
The disciples will soon experience a similar pattern. There will be severe agony, terror, and uncertainty as the unbelieving world murders Christ and scatters His followers (Matthew 26:31; John 16:32). Yet, those three days of misery (John 2:19) will be followed by a faith so joyous and powerful (John 16:22) it will literally change the world (Acts 1:1–9).
"So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy"
As Christ explains the misery and persecution His followers can expect from the world (John 16:1–3), He also offers comfort. A crucial aspect of that encouragement is the fact that pain and suffering are temporary, as compared to the blessings offered by life in Christ (John 10:10; 14:6). Jesus has recently predicted that the disciples' experience of His death and resurrection (John 18:1–3; 19:18; 20:19) will parallel that of a woman giving birth. The pain is intense, but relatively short-lived, and what comes after is a lasting and even-more-intense joy (John 16:20–21).
In the most immediate sense, Jesus also refers to the sorrow His closest followers feel as they hear His dire predictions (John 16:6, 12). He once again comforts them with a reminder—deliberately given in advance (John 16:4)—that they will see Him again (John 16:16). Over time, their faith in the risen Christ will be characterized by joy which even persecution and death cannot overcome (Acts 5:41; 8:8; 13:52; Luke 24:52).
In the Last Supper (John 13:1–5), Jesus has often brought up the fact that He's giving His followers advance warnings (John 13:19; 14:25)