JOY is one of those words we associate with Christmas time, but life’s circumstances often force us into less than joyful moods. We all at times experience the burden of illness, the shock of tragedy, or the pain of losing something or someone dear. This is the season we reflect on the past year, looking for the positives and resolving to make the next one better—but we often fixate on the year’s struggles. Is there room for joy here?
As Christians, we should have a monopoly on joy. Why? Because we have a sorrow-proof hope that goes even beyond the silver linings others look for in this life.
The silver lining for the friend who lost his home is that he still has his health. For the one who’s sick, at least he can say he and his loved ones are alive. For the sick who’ve have lost loved ones, at least there is consolation that those missed are no longer suffering. Sooner or later though, we run out of silver linings if we hit rock bottom, or our own pain keeps us from seeing them anymore. But beyond the silver lining, there is gold.
Christians should have a monopoly on joy because of what Christmas celebrates: The coming of a quite literal bundle of Joy, Jesus our Lord and Savior, bringing joy to the world. Since Adam’s rebellion God has been working to redeem us from our sin and the misery it brings. Absolutely everything in this life, even death, will be one day made right. If that’s true, hope in Jesus Christ gives us absolutely everything. A hundred years of misery on earth is nothing compared to even a moment in the presence of God’s full glory. If this is our focus, shouldn’t joy follow? Christians are defined by our identity in Christ, not our circumstances, and eternal joy is our destiny. That should change things for us. While it’s appropriate to mourn when circumstances call for it, our inner joy shouldn’t stay inner. It’s part of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).
Jesus said: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11) I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Paul said: “Rejoice always… (1 Thess. 5:16) In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. (2 Cor. 7:4) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
James said: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)
Even Habakkuk, having hope in the promised Messiah yet to come, said: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
More than a feeling, joy comes from knowing who we are in Christ, unworthy recipients of God’s grace and eternal salvation. A lack of joy means we either haven’t accepted God’s free gift, or we’ve forgotten we have it. Neither is good. Are you trusting in something that can’t save you? Are you a Christian who just isn’t feeling it? If our faith is in Jesus, then the joy that resides in us is merely forgotten—and we’re at risk of forgetting other truths too. Remind yourself and each other of the hope you have in Christ, and be the bearer of joy that others want too.
“…the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:10-11)