“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11 ESV
Every year during advent, we focus on these four words/themes: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. And I have to be honest…joy has always been a hard one for me. Not because I’m an overly negative person (at least I don’t think I am…!), but because we know that the world isn’t some giant “joy-fest.” There’s a lot of hurt. There’s a lot of brokenness. And it’s not like the Bible ignores this. The Bible tells us that the world has been corrupted, and that it is marked by selfishness, death, pain/suffering, etc.
And so how are we to make sense of this? How are we to reconcile the brokenness of the world with this JOY that we’re supposed to have? I know…that’s a big question. And I don’t think I have all of the answers. But I will say that my perspective on joy has shifted recently. And it all started when I was asked to preach on joy during an advent series. I know…it’s ironic that the guy who struggles with the concept of joy is asked to teach on joy. But that’s how God works, right? We’re often faced with the very thing we struggle with. And so…I dove into the concept of joy. And here’s what I learned:
There are several words used to describe JOY in the Bible, and all of them are closely related to this idea of gladness and/or happiness. BUT…there is a distinction between how joy is used in the Bible and how we typically understand joy. In the Bible, joy is more than an emotion. Biblical joy is an ATTITUDE that believers adopt, not because of their circumstances, but because of their relationship with God — because of their HOPE (their certain hope) in God’s faithfulness and promises.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that was new for me. That shifted some things for me in a pretty major way. I started to realize that Biblical joy doesn’t ignore sorrow. Biblical joy doesn’t doesn’t ignore hardship. No. What I realized is that Biblical joy is the result of a choice. We choose to be joyful because of the HOPE that we have in Jesus.
Let me give you a quick example:
Jesus, in the Beatitudes, tells his followers: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…”
When you read this, what’s the first thing that stands out to you? For me, it’s Jesus’ challenge to rejoice in the face of persecution. When I read that I’m like: “Why should I rejoice (have JOY) when people revile me and utter all kinds of evil against me? What good does that do?”
And then I read the verse that immediately follows: “For you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” And that’s when it clicks for me. Our joy is our testimony.
I think Jesus is telling His followers that the world is LONGING to taste and see a person who has this kind of joy – a joy that persists in the midst of hardship, in the midst of turmoil, and in the midst of pain.
This is a different kind of JOY. A joy that is NOT based on circumstances; rather, a joy that is based on a person. A joy that is based on a certain HOPE that we have.
And so as you reflect on that this week, will you take some time to consider what the coming of Jesus meant for the world? Will you take some time to consider the JOY we can now have as a result of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection? Will you make an effort to rest in that joy?
Let the world see a different kind of JOY in you. That’s what the world needs!
- How can you begin to incorporate this kind of joy into your life?
- Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 and reflect on how the Apostle Paul chose joy in even the most difficult situations.
By Ryan Leeds | Summit County, CO