We Christians are supposed to be full of joy, especially this time of year. So how is that working for everybody? Not easy, is it?
It’s worth asking: what exactly is Christian joy supposed to look like?
Christmas night five years ago my best friend, my mom, died of kidney cancer. It was a painful time and this season always reminds me of it. But I recall my boss calling to give his condolences while I was planning the funeral. With tears on my face, I smiled and told him I was so thankful and happy. Strange isn’t it? But I knew she was with God, her Savior! And the pain I had from missing her deeply was shadowed by a peace I had in knowing her Lord would take care of her and had a plan in all of it. My pain was real, but I experienced deep joy in the midst of all the tears. Joy that was bigger than me or my circumstances.
Jesus spoke about this same kind of Joy just hours before being betrayed, persecuted, and killed: “I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13).
Did you catch that? Jesus knew what was coming, yet he had joy to share. A lot of it: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Complete joy, divorced from circumstance. That sounds good, doesn’t it?
How do we get joy like that? Real Christian joy is borne of truth.
In John 15, Jesus described Himself as the “true vine,” while we are the branches. When we remain in Him, He will remain in us, and to His Father’s glory we will bear much fruit, including joy (John 15.1-11).
When we remain in Him we remain in His love. And imagine this – our Holy Father and Jesus make their home with us (John 14:23). We are family! We can have joy because we know the truth (John 16:13). God the Father loves us. Jesus died for us. The Holy Spirit is with us, protecting us and directing us and leading us through all the challenges and yes, even pain, this life can bring. He never promised us an easy life. But He does assure us He is always with us and loves us (John 15:9). As Christians we believe God is in control and has a plan for us. Further, He assures us we can trust He knows what He is doing in our lives and this world, even when we don’t understand or like it (John 16:33).
Do you trust that? Do you believe that?
There is an old hymn with the lyrics, “turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Try something – in prayer, praise Him. No matter what your circumstances may be. Praise Him. Acknowledge Him and all that He is –Wonderful, Counselor, Savior, Almighty God. In seeing who He is and who we are in Him. We can have joy. Joy is not about easy going fun times. Joy is knowing who God is and seeing this life, difficult as it may be, for what it is – preparation for an eternity with Him. Start to look at life with this perspective and if you struggle with it. Speak it to Him, pray it, and then praise Him. Acknowledge this truth that you know. The Holy Spirit will pray and praise Him right there with you (Romans 8:26). You are never alone. Count it all joy.
Are you remaining in Him this Christmas season?