Joy is a theme of Christmas. “Joy to the World” the carol proclaims! But why is it that joy can seem so elusive?
We pine for happier times. The COVID virus and the economic shutdown have affected so many families. Some are avoiding traditional family gatherings this year. Even worse, this may be your first Christmas without a loved one. Life happens, and can steal your joy. Or not! I submit to you that happiness and joy are different. Suffering hides happiness, but joy abides in sadness.
British theologian Jo Vitale writes, “What sets joy apart is, whereas happiness is dependent upon our circumstances, biblical joy is experienced in defiance of the circumstances.” The Psalmist thanked God saying, “You have turned my mourning into dancing for me. You have untied my sackcloth and encircled me with joy” (Psa. 30:11). Jesus’ followers experienced this, too. After a flogging for speaking about Jesus, they went on their way “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-32). That is the abiding joy that keeps you living with purpose.
You have reason to live with joy despite your circumstances. Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Sadness doesn’t change the joy that is yours by faith. Peter writes, “Though you do not see Him now but believe in Him you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible (1 Pet. 1:8).
Jesus changed the circumstances of the world, and in your life. In the words of Tolkien’s character Sam Gamgee, “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?” “A great shadow has departed,” Gandalf said, and then he laughed. If there’s a sadness that has become untrue, it is the hopelessness of evil and separation from God. Jesus overcame those so that joy may abide in you.
How can you have this joy? C. S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Abiding joy is what God offers. It does not exist apart from Him. Then consider this: Jesus “has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). So if joy comes from the Lord and He seeks you, then it follows that you don’t have to pursue happiness because a greater Joy is in pursuit of you! Respond to the cry of the carol, “Let every heart prepare him room”!
Joy isn’t elusive when you realize it’s not an emotion, but a Person. By faith, Christ Jesus lives in you (Gal. 2:20). His Christmas gift to you is Himself, your Abiding Joy.