As the Christmas season rolls around, we are surrounded by banquets, presents, and fellowship. But in the midst of the business of the season, we constantly hear someone reminding us to, “Remember what Christmas is all about. It is a season of joy.” Then we sing along to the Christmas carol Joy to the World. However, when we try to stay in the “Christmas spirit”, it seems that it is more about happiness than about joy of the Lord. Believe it or not, there is a big difference.
Joy Versus Happiness
Now I am well persuaded that some might be a little confused about the difference between joy and happiness. Let me try to explain. When you receive that gift you had been wanting for a while, you are happy. It is an excitement based on circumstances. Joy is waking up every morning and choosing to be thankful for what God has blessed you with. Happiness is a feeling; joy is an attitude. Happiness lifts our spirits in the moment; joy lifts our spirits constantly. If I could sum it up best, though, happiness comes automatically when the circumstance comes; joy is a choice we have to make regardless of what circumstance comes.
The Joy of the LORD
After reading the last paragraph you might be thinking, “Yes, I want to be joyful, but my life is filled with chaos, heartbreak, and disaster.” Actually, we can still experience joy through our trials! Although we know that God wants us to be joyful all the time (Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice”), He promises us that we will have trials in John 16:33. But that is not the end of the verse! John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The ending is very important: we don’t have to be down in the dumps when the latest and greatest trial comes our way. Why? Because He has overcome the world. Once our perspective changes, once we stop focusing on life and, instead, the reason we have life, then we can have true joy. How can we not have joy living in the light of eternal life?! Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” Wow! we can actually find the strength to face our trials when God’s joy fills us. In fact, I have found that that is the only way I can get through the hard times. You see, we have two choices: live for God, or live for this world. When we suffer trials, living for this world becomes useless, and the only resolution is to live for God.
The Reason for the Season
Here is the punchline: Jesus came into the Earth, born in a stable, so we could have freedom. Isn’t that such a powerful word: freedom. That is the reason we have joy. Over the years, millions and millions have died, all for the sake of freedom in the physical realm. How much greater is that spiritual freedom?! Jesus Christ has freed us from the power of sin and death over us and has opened wide the gates of Heaven. So this year, let us remember why we celebrate, but furthermore, let us really meditate on that thought: freedom, and what that means for us. Thinking about that will fill our next year with true JOY!
What gives you the most joy?