My growing up years were filled with temporary moments of happiness mixed with moments of confusion and disappointment. We moved several times during my childhood and making new friends was not always easy. I was glad to have my six brothers and sisters to play with. Being the oldest girl in the family, they became a constant source of frustration and silliness. I was their babysitter, often their source of transportation, and to some extent their mother when mom went off to the hospital to have more babies. But they were my family and no matter how many times we moved they were always there. It was very comforting to me.
Married life and motherhood brought about yet another series of ups and downs and family took on a whole new meaning for me. Life was now filled with not only my own sense of happiness and disappointment but the internalizing of my children’s happiness and disappointments. As a mom, you can’t help but be protective knowing full well that you must give your children the chance to make their own mistakes and feel their own pain all the while feeling it right along with them.
So, what does all of this have to do with JOY? I tell you these things to say that life has taught me the difference between JOY and HAPPINESS. Happiness is a fleeting emotion. It is a good emotion and causes us to feel joyful but true JOY comes from within. It does not fluctuate with the current or passing situation. It does not change when life throws you a curveball. True JOY is based on our identity as Christ-followers.
Psalm 83 says:
"They concoct crafty plans against your own people; they plot against the people you favor."
-Psalm 83:3 (CEB)
This reminds us that we are God’s treasure and that we are cherished.
Ephesians 1 says:
"We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding."
-Ephesians 1:7-8 (CEB)
And, in 1 John 1:7 it says:
"But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin."
-1 John 1:7 (CEB)
This is the basis for real JOY!
Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem and his family moved before his second birthday. He went from Bethlehem to Egypt and back to Jerusalem. He spent his adult ministry moving from place to place and He died so that we might have the abundant life we need so that we are free to move about spreading the good news of the gospel.
The facts of the Bible never change. The truth about who we are in Christ never changes. It was never Christ’s desire that we be happy because happiness is fleeting and dependent upon the situations and the people around us. Christ’s desire was that we would find JOY in the very word of God, the truth of scripture and the abiding of the Holy Spirit within us.
We are His children, the chosen ones of God. We are holy and blameless in His sight. We live our lives with eternity in mind, not in survival mode, but with the hope that comes through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter says:
"May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! On account of his vast mercy, he has given us new birth. You have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. You have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish—an inheritance that is presently kept safe in heaven for you."
-1 Peter 1:3-4
This is true JOY - living with the knowledge that someday we will move right into our eternal home with Christ. This same Christ who was born in a manger on Christmas morn will welcome us with open arms as He escorts us into the mansion waiting for us.
Celebrate this Advent with JOY in your hearts knowing that the situations and the circumstances that surround your Christmas are wrapped with the JOY of the Lord! He is your strength and your Redeemer.
Listen to the other episodes of the Advent Series: