JOY

2018 – What a year. One of my favorite things to do as the year comes to a close is think about where I am now compared to where I was when this year began, and this year has by far been the most challenging and rewarding years I have ever experienced. There has been stress, suffering, and lots of searching for answers I may never find on this side of heaven, but there has also been strength. There has been more strength than I knew possible, more love than I am worthy of, and more joy than I can hold in my heart…

It’s no secret that I am Christmas crazy, and while I sadly have already safely packed away most of my Christmas decorations, I’m still caught on the joy that surrounds this season. Because of the gift sent to us all those Christmas’s ago, there is JOY to be found in this season and in every day to come. So as you read the descriptions of joy I have found to be true this year, my prayer is that the joy of the Lord will fill your spirit so completely that this joy will overflow into the world around you each and every day.

Joy is independent of circumstance. It is not restricted by what is going on in your life. As believers, we are called to “always be full of joy in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4) and to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Joy is possible in all moments because it is found in our Lord, not our circumstances.

Joy is found in the presence of the Holy Spirit. King David said “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence…” (Psalm 16:11). This same joy is offered to each of us today through the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.  The Creator of the world is with you, living within your heart. When your circumstances don’t leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, lean into the joy found in His presence. He will always be there.

Joy is found in trusting that your Creator is working out his purposes for your life. He is working for your good and for His glory.  God created you, uniquely and intentionally, for a specific purpose that He wants you to fulfill. When you trust the plan he has so carefully laid out for you, there is joy to be found in knowing that “God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).


“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13


Joy is meant to be as steadfast as the faithfulness of our God. It may not always be as visible as it’s worldly counterpart of happiness, but joy will always be found when you remember that our God is faithful. Psalm 126:3 says, “The Lord has done  great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”  Isaiah 35:10 says, “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” David says in Psalm 71:23, “I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.” Jude 24-25 reminds us of the faithful promise that God “will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.”

Throughout the Bible are examples of believers who have no reason to be happy, but every reason to be filled with joy at the redeeming power of God.  As you reflect on the last year and look forward to what the next has to hold, remember what the Lord has done for you / what he has brought you through / how he has lifted you, and be filled with overflowing joy.

Joy is not a fleeting feeling, escaping you when the pain is just too bad or the hurt is just too deep. Joy is the strength that carries you through the pain, the grief, and the struggle as you hold tight to the hand of your Deliverer, your Protector, and your Healer. One of my favorite reminders of this is Nehemiah 8:10, which tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The entire book of Job is a testimony of joy that can be found in the most difficult of circumstances – he endured every trial and every sadness and at his lowest point, when he no longer wanted to live, still maintained “my joy in unrelenting pain–that I had not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).

Additional reminders of strength in joy are found in the Psalms, including Psalm 21:1 which says “How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because you give him victory.” and Psalm 94:19 which says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Joy is the knowledge of unchanging Truth – You are loved by the Everlasting Father (Romans 8:38-39). You are forgiven through the Prince of Peace (Ephesians 2:8). You have been adopted as a son of the Most High God. You have been made a daughter of the King of kings (Romans 8:15-17). You have been brought to life by the gift of the Perfect Savior (John 3:16-17).

Joy is for all believers…not just believers with sunny dispositions and optimistic attitudes. Remember what the angel told the shepherds on that holy night? He said to them, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today…” (Luke 2:10).

Jesus is our joy.  He came for us, all of us. Immanuel. Joy to the world.

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Begin Again

Ask just about anyone and they’ll say that New Years Day is the perfect time to start fresh, but ask me and I’ll say it’s at Christmas.

I love everything about Christmas, but what I love most is what it represents.  I know I’m a few days late (but really I’m still full of Christmas Spirit), but the rest of this post was written a few weeks ago, so forgive me for waiting until now to share:

Tonight I am angry, I am frustrated, and I am full of my own selfish pride.  Is this my proudest moment? Definitely not.  Is this my worst moment? Definitely not.  Do I have to keep myself in this mindset because that’s just who I am?  Thanks to my Savior, definitely not.  

Christmas to me is all about new beginnings. A time that reminds me both of who I was at my worst and who I hope to be in my future.  Why? Because we have been given the incredibly undeserved gift of a second chance through a beautiful exchange.

We don’t have to look at ourselves in the mirror every morning, wishing we could somehow forget the mistakes of our past and be a better person. Because Jesus Christ loved us enough to humbly come into a broken world to give himself in exchange for our shortcomings, we don’t just “wish” for a chance to begin again, we are given that very chance every single day, in every single moment.

We have hope. We have hope in the promises our Heavenly Father has made and in the birth of a Savior that came to wash away our sins and offer us a fresh start, a new beginning.

You don’t have to be who you used to be, or even who are you right now in this moment. You have the ability to pick yourself up, climb into the loving arms of your Savior, and choose to begin again.

You have the choice of embracing all that He has offered you. Does that mean you will never make another mistake? Definitely not. But by the grace of God it means you are no longer defined by those mistakes.  

You have been offered new life. A new, eternal, hopeful, joyful, love-filled life now stands in the place of the broken, angry, messed-up, failure that you had deemed your life to be.

This is the gift of Christmas. This is why I celebrate, why I cherish, and why I seemingly turn into a 5-year old when I think of this time of year. I have been made new. I have been forgiven. I have been redeemed. And you can say the same for yourself because of the gift born on Christmas.

“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” -Matthew 1:21


“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”


 

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