Choosing JOY | Christmas with a Difference
I’m going to be honest here, and say that there are some days where I really struggle with getting up in the morning. It can be a real difficulty – and I wake up with an entirely ‘upside-down’ mind-set, which can very often plague me for the rest of the day (or at least until I’ve properly woken up, usually one or two cups of tea down). On these days, where I’d much rather be curled up in bed in a duvet cocoon, I really have to challenge myself about my attitude.
Because recently I’ve realised that Joy is a choice.
Joy is not an emotion, but an attitude. Joy can exist regardless of the circumstances, and is lasting. The Bible is full of references of joy, I think the ESV has over 400 mentions of joy, in some sense of the word. This strikingly contrasts to only 7 mentions of ‘happy’, or ‘happiness’.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night but joy comes with the morning.
PSALM 30:5 (NLT)
As much as one can try to change our attitudes, or channel positive thinking, the lasting joy I’m talking about here is something God-given. It’s one of the best gifts He gave us – and that through the Holy Spirit we can experience that Joy.
I feel as if for some of you, these could just be words on a screen, yet mean little more. I want to share with you an experience I had a few weeks ago, to back the whole idea of a joy that surpasses anything else.
While at Church one evening, during worship, I was praising, while watching the Holy Spirit move around the room and touch a number of people. I’d spent a large proportion of the previous week feeling like a mess: mainly in headspace and emotions. I was feeling distant, and not properly engaged – yet at the same time, desperate to feel like I belonged.
I’ve often said, and will continue to say: God works in strange and unexpected ways. That evening, the focus was on healing; for those both physically and mentally, and those who wanted to reconnect with God. Yet while I stood there and watched, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. And it was a proper, beaming smile. Those don’t happen all too often, and especially not when I’d been feeling like a mess. Yet God worked through His Spirit, and overpowered those feelings of sadness, confusion and doubt, and filled me with joy instead.
It’s joy in the midst of suffering. In the midst of trials, and in the depths of a storm.
We won’t always feel joyful, and that’s okay. Joy can’t be forced, yet I still believe that we can choose to seek Joy. That evening, my smile spread across my face in ways I can’t explain. I caught the eye of a friend across the room, and they could just see the Holy Spirit at work; I felt joy and a sense of contentment that I hadn’t felt in months.
I guess that’s just inspired me to seek after joy more. To try and challenge myself when I know my mind isn’t focused, or in the right place, knowing that there is something more fulfilling, and lasting out there. Joy found in God’s presence is full, completing, and satisfying. It fills that hunger and need to ‘feel’ something far more than anything that can be found in the world.
You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
At this time of year, there’s an expectation to be cheerful. There are many things that can cause feelings of happiness, or snippets of joy, such as Christmas trees, festive music and friends and family, all too soon, the Christmas period is over, and we can be into the January ‘Blues’.
But God’s Joy is lasting, and doesn’t end when we take down the Christmas tree.
It doesn’t end when we go back to work in the New Year, and life seems to return to ‘normality’.
When we TRUST, faithfully and wholeheartedly, we can experience this Joy. If we know His promises, and lean on them, then we come to know His Joy.
I’m not saying I’m there yet – I want to be, but I’m challenging myself here as much as all of you. When life gets busy, and Christmas seems to take over, how much do we continue to trust and lean on God?
Can Christmas this year be fuelled by the Joy that is full and ever-lasting, regardless of whatever personal circumstances you may find yourselves in?
I’m challenging myself to choose Joy this Christmas – and beyond. By choosing Joy, I’m choosing to seek God’s presence, to lean into His promises, and to trust Him. I may not know, nor understand what the future holds, but even so, I trust that He does, and His plans are best.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.