Christmas is a joy-filled time, but sadly, during the rest of the year we rarely see true joy – even among Christians. Many of us long to experience joy – that deep, abiding kind of joy that we read about in the Bible, yet we feel confused about what joy really is. We wonder if it is just a fleeting emotion and doubt it is something sustainable beyond the holidays. It often seems based on our circumstances, so does that make it the same as happiness?
I’ve logged many prayer hours asking the Lord for joy, and as soon as I thought I had it, a circumstance changed and my joy fell away in an instant. Over time, the Lord began to show me that His joy is not simply an emotion based on circumstance, but fruit of the Spirit. When we follow Christ, His Holy Spirit takes up residence in us and one aspect of the fruit that bursts forth is joy.
Since joy is fruit of the Spirit, evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, it is not something that God’s children can lose. It doesn’t always make us feel happy, but it is ours to keep. Joy does not always protect us from feeling sorrow, but true joy will lessen the depth of our despair and help us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to move out of troubled emotions more quickly. It sustains us through even the deepest sorrows and helps us keep our focus on the author and finisher of our faith.
Maintaining joy beyond Christmas involves looking to the Giver, not the gifts, as our source of our joy. When we stop looking to our circumstance and fully trust in the Lord as our foundation of joy, we can experience true, deep, abiding joy for a lifetime.
I’ve hungered for joy that conquers circumstance. I’m finding it, and so can you! By looking to the Lord alone as my source, I’m discovering the kind of joy that makes my eyes sparkle, even in moments of sadness, and makes people say, “Whatever she has, I want some of that!”
Cathy McIntosh is the author of Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit, available now at www.strengthenedbytheword.com
Reading God’s Story Schedule for today, 1/02/13: John 1:1-3, Psalm 8, Psalm 104.
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