Today we light the candle of “Joy” on our advent wreath. I perceive joy as a deep abiding quality that exists in the farthest reaches of my soul. It comes from knowing with surety that God is who He says He is and by resting secure in the conviction that I am His child. My joy is founded in the hope that I will someday live eternally in Heaven with God because I have received the salvation He offers to me. The result is peace and contentment realizing God is sovereignly in control of the circumstances of my life. At times my joy is a quiet inner expression of my love and thankfulness to Him heard only by the Father above. On other occasions my joy overflows with an exuberance that bursts into audible singing or whooping with delight. Now and then my joy is enthusiastically shared with family or friends while at times it is enjoyed simply by me.
Does being joyful in my soul always translate into an emotional feeling of happiness? Do I run around with a perpetual smile and positive attitude? That would be unrealistic as we live in a world broken by anger, jealousy, greed, illness, death, tragedy, and a host of other harmful dynamics that are constantly in motion.
How can one be “joyful” in the midst of grieving over the innocent deaths of twenty precious children and six other loved ones? Certainly such horrific acts cause unspeakable pain and suffering. We cannot expect to feel otherwise. I am reminded of a quote by Corrie Ten Boom, “Joy runs deeper than despair.”[i] If you have read the story of this woman of God her anguish was beyond our understanding. Yet she knew God was her Sustainer and she trusted Him in the depths of her helpless situation. Only Christ can fill us with that kind of deep-seated joy that transcends such agony and hopelessness. “Happiness depends on happenings; joy depends on Christ.”[ii] My prayers join with those across the globe who are upholding these families before God’s throne of grace and love.
Jill Briscoe says, “I believe God, through His Spirit, grants us love, joy, and peace no matter what is happening in our lives. As Christians, we shouldn’t expect our joy to always feel like happiness, but instead recognize joy as inner security – a safeness in our life with Christ.” [iii]
Joy is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Following are but a few of my favourites:
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.” (Psalm 28:7)
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3)
Therein lies the challenge – how do we respond with such expressions of joy when our emotions or circumstances scream the opposite? I have found that regardless of my situation, there is always something I can be thankful for and I also can focus on the goodness of God in my life. It is a choice I have to make and when I do, it helps!
The apostle James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (1:2-4) I memorized these verses almost a year ago, and it is amazing how quickly the Lord reminded me of them when I faced a stressful situation earlier in the week.
In reference to the inheritance we have in Christ, the apostle Peter encourages us with these words, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed…you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” (I Peter 1:6-9)
Jesus has become the reason for our joy! He alone is the One who can fill our hearts with joy in the midst of our experiences.
The traditional German carol, “How Great our Joy!” is another of my favourites
While by the sheep we watched at night,
Glad tidings brought an angel bright.
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy, Joy, joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heav’n on high!
Praise we the Lord in heav’n on high!
There shall be born, so he did say,
In Bethlehem a Child today. (Chorus)
There shall the child lie in a stall,
This Child who shall redeem us all. (Chorus)
This gift of God we’ll cherish well,
That ever joy our hearts shall fill. (Chorus)
Until next Sunday,
[iii] Telling the Truth, http://dailychristianquote.com/dcqjoy2.html