Meditations for Advent, Week 3 ~ Joy

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Joy

I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to suffer in silence when I’m feeling discontent.

Examples:

  • “I’m tired of changing diapers! Why can’t these tiny people learn bowel and bladder control already?”
  • “If I could just finish everything on my to-do list for once, I could finally be at peace.”
  • “This would be so much easier/better/funner if we just had (fill in the blank).”

Ben’s response usually comes soaked in equal parts sarcasm and wisdom: “Yes. If the kids could just be potty-trained then everything would be perfect. You’d be so happy and never want for anything again.”

To which there is usually an eye roll from Yours Truly and eventually laughter about the honest truth. The truth that these momentary achievements, be it a goal, material wealth, or something else, may bring temporary happiness, but they don’t bring lasting joy.

Happiness, I have learned (ok, I’m still learning), is very different from joy. Happiness is circumstantial. Happiness comes with a new pair of shoes, a lovely glass of wine, a clean house (at least, for me). It’s on the surface, apt to change with the winds of life. It is popped as quickly as a child’s balloon. (Ah, the utter glee of a child with a balloon and the immediate distress that inevitably ensues upon its destruction. We laugh, but let’s be honest. We as adults are sometimes not much different.)

But joy. Joy runs deep to our core. We feel it in our souls, with every beat of our hearts. It is not easily shaken off. It is not something someone can steal.

Joy is an inherent state of being whereby we realize that every step of our journey, whether easy or tough, whether light-hearted or gut-wrenching, is important and worthwhile. It all matters and is even worthy of gratitude. Joy is a steady companion, an unwavering contentedness, reminding us that each step takes us closer to the One who satisfies our souls in the most complete way possible.

I’ve heard it said over and over again that there is no better way to increase your joy than to practice gratitude. When we bring our focus to being thankful for what we already have as opposed to yearning for what we don’t have, our perspective changes. This is at the heart of what Jesus came for. As we celebrate this Christmas, let us do it from a place of gratitude, starting with the good and lasting treasure in what we’ve already been given: the gift of His perfect, extravagant, redeeming love.

Despite our best intetions, it is so easy to be sidetracked from gratitude, getting caught up in the Christmas frenzy of our society that touts guaranteed joy if only we can get more, bigger, better, newer. But as any parent can tell you, the hype of the Christmas gift is as fleeting as the crinkly paper and sparkly ribbon it’s wrapped in. Idolized for weeks, only to be thrown out with the trash (or, rather, recycling please, because the EARTH). The coveted Christmas gift is now had. The shine has tarnished and the allure has been snuffed out quicker than a candle.  

Things don’t satisfy. They are not enough. They are not intended to bring lasting joy. Only Jesus is meant to do that.

The beauty about joy is that we get to choose it. We choose to find joy in the lasting gifts in our lives. The gift of a belly laugh. The gift of an encouraging friend. The gift of love. The gift of community. The gift of hope. The gift of being known. The gift of breath. The gift of mended relationships. The gift of healing. The gift of growing. The gift of bravery. The gift of grit. The gift of do-overs. The gift of grace. 

Pick a gift. Find gratitude. Unleash joy. Keep going. Your heart was made for this.

Jen Hatmaker is one of my very favorite authors and speakers. As a fellow mom, wife of a pastor, and adoptive parent I appreciate her humor and wisdom in very personal ways. This weekend she posted an honest and refreshing perspective on what really matters and I find it quite fitting as we head into a week all about joy:

…”The longer I live, the more distilled it all gets: what matters, what counts, what I love, where I want to be, and what I will be glad I invested in forty years from now. Every year, I need a little less: less hustle, less busyness, less “success,” less Big and More, less stuff. And I also need a little more: more family, more besties, more porches, more dinners at home, more laughter, more of our little church, more gratitude.

Sending love to every one of you finding deep delight in exactly what you have and where you are, refusing the More Monster and deciding that an old porch with your beloveds is enough. Don’t let anyone shame you out of simplicity or contentment. I bet your life is spectacular exactly how it is if you have eyes to see it.”

Friends, this Christmas may you find rest from the frenzy of the season, enjoying the simplicity of what you have and delighting in it to no end, knowing that the greatest source of joy has already been gifted to you in lavish abundance that will never tarnish or fade.  

 

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