It’s Christmas time and we hear the word “joy” more often these days. Joy is an interesting word. It’s confusing. It gets mixed up with the word “happy”. There’s a big difference between the two. I heard someone say “being happy depends on what’s happening.” I think that’s true. Good things can be happening and we feel happy. Bad things happen and we don’t feel happy. Joy is different. Joy is not dependent on what’s happening. We can have joy, be joyful, and feel joy regardless of what’s going on in our life. Joy is a choice. Joy is based on truth that transcends circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. Joy is harder some days than others. Facebook has this great thing called “memories.” Sometimes it brings up good things from past years and sometimes not. In our family, the past 3 years have had many hard times. Each morning I click on “See Your Memories” and take a deep breath. But you know what I’ve found? I’ve found that even in the hard things, there has been joy. Joy because the Lord was always there. Joy because the troubles in this life pale in comparison to the life we’ll have in eternity. Joy because Jesus said life will be hard, suffering will occur, persecution will come. After all, He went through that as well. It was one of His closest disciples who betrayed Him. I’ve come to realize that the Lord seems closer in the hardships. That’s a good reason for joy! James 1:2 says to consider it all joy when we face various trials. James was on to something!
Our natural self wants to run from hardship and difficulty. I think that’s one reason why so many Christian books and speakers and preachers these days want to talk about shortcuts to joy. There is so much that is focused on self and not focused on truth. If we’re not careful we can ingest a heavy dose of “look how good you are, that’s why God loves you” that we fail to be honest with ourselves. This doesn’t give us any true joy. It gives us happiness, for the moment, because we ignore the bad and focus on the good. We want to avoid anything bad and so we’re really not living in reality. The trouble is when we wake up the next morning, we have to find another dose of that man-centered-gobbledygook to make it one more day. It doesn’t sustain us.
Joy is different. As we celebrate Christmas we can have joy. We can be honest with ourselves. Let’s not forget that Jesus (the reason for the season) came to die. He came for the mission of dying. His purpose was to die. And for what? Our sins! Yes, those awful things we want to run from. Those things we’d like to ignore. Those things we want to pretend aren’t in our lives. He died for those things. We have no reason to hide them, avoid them, or ignore them. Jesus knows about them. He died for them. For that, we can be joyful! “Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Joy to the world! The Savior reigns!” He is our savior. He came to save us. Choose joy.