December is that time of year when we're inundated with the message of 'Joy to the World'.
This weekend I sat in a small New England church, listening to a message about joy. In the midst of the message, I had a personal epiphany.
The speaker reminded me first that the joy of the the Lord can change the atmosphere of my sphere of influence. This is a solid, comforting thought. Who doesn't want to see their home, their relationships, their work, their neighborhood infused with the bright light of joy?
As the speaker continued on, I realized that I didn't truly understand the nature, the definition of joy. Jesus promises that we will be 'full of joy' (Jn 16:23 MSG).
Full of what, I asked?
I'm not saying I'm right. But this what I heard as I meditated on the meaning of joy:
Joy is the result of understanding what Jesus has revealed, approaching each moment with our focus on Jesus, all requests and actions being filtered through what we understand Jesus' truth to be. Joy is not happiness. Joy is complete understanding and acceptance of Jesus' will for my life: to become like him.
Complete and full joy is the result of a clear understanding of Jesus' truth.
I think that when Jesus says that no one will be able to steal our joy, when we read verses like Nehemiah that tell us: “...the joy of the Lord is your strength...” (Neh 8:10), we wonder how God can expect us to be happy all the time. We wonder what we're doing wrong when we don't feel 'joyful'.
I think sometimes we confuse joy and happiness.
To clarify, I believe that joy is not a 'feeling'. Joy is a choice.
Joy is delving into the very nature of Jesus. Reading, studying and meditating on his life.
“When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions.” ~Jesus in John 16:23 MSG
The joy Jesus speaks of is the unshakable understanding and acceptance that we were created solely to be in relationship with God himself.
Jesus' coming to earth provides us with the missing link needed to experience that relationship with God.
'Joy to the world, the Lord has come.'
Joy is in our midst, manifest in the opening of our heart-eyes to the revelation of our deepest purpose – to become like Jesus and be in relationship with God.
My prayer for you this advent season is that you will experience true joy – the depth of belief and clarity of God's true purpose for your life.
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I am at my kitchen table and the morning sun is breaking through the trees spreading bright light. A cup of coffee, a nourishing breakfast, my journal, devotional book and bible are scattered around me. A sentence in my devotional catches my attention:
"Rest in silence and tranquility."
Before I have finished reading the sentence, loud laughter comes out of the living room where Trey is watching Milo & Otis for the 150th time. I look up in time to see him sneaking a cupcake off of the counter, my "Not right now" drowned out by the pounding of his feet as he runs back into the living room.
Earlier, I was up at 3AM by his request for milk.
Then his 6AM cry for a foot rub.
My coffee is preceded by a dash outside to feed and water chickens, rabbits, horse, dogs, and a cat. Trey follows me outside, and a normally quick routine is punctuated by screams of " I lost my shoe!" "I'm cold!" "I want to go inside!" - all said in a screaming voice with as much drama as Bette Midler.
Not today, honey .
It's days like today that this verse encourages me:
"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you." ~ Jesus (Jn15:4 MSG)
Jesus isn't waiting for silence and tranquility before he makes his home in me.
Phones ringing , toddlers whining, dirty dishes - regardless, Jesus is making his home in me in the midst of my life, not in spite of it.
I encourage you to make a concerted effort to set aside quiet time for devotions and prayer.
But on those days when the only 'quiet' you experience is when your kids are strapped into their seats and you're pumping gas - remember, in this too, Jesus is here.
Here in the midst of your life.
Jesus is here.
"We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well."
(1 Corinthians 10:24b MSG)