Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
Follow your own path

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How to Find Joy in the Tough Times

As I watch the recap of the events of this year, I realize how desperate the times have become. It can be depressing to watch too much of the news these days. Yet Christmas is upon us and once again we have the opportunity to receive the true gifts Christ came to bring: hope, peace, joy, and love. Despite the difficult circumstances of our lives, it is still possible to have joy when we know what it is and where to find it.

So many years ago, the angels proclaimed tidings of great joy at the birth of the baby Jesus. What is joy exactly? Have you ever thought about it? Is it the same as happiness? Many mistake joy and happiness for the same thing, but they are not.

At a Christmas party here at my complex a few years ago, I had quite a lively discussion with some neighbors about the differences between joy, happiness, and contentment. Seems folks have very different takes on what each of these are.

"I'm content", I commented.
"You mean you're settling," he said.
"No, I am content. At peace with my life."
"Well, I'd rather be happy," he said.
"Happiness depends on our circumstances and is temporary," I countered.
"Contentment is boring," he replied.
"What about joy?" I asked.
No answer.

I decided to take a poll at a nearby table and asked what everyone thought. The question precipitated quite a variety of answers.

Philosophers define happiness in terms of the good life. The Declaration of Independence says that "the pursuit of happiness" is an inalienable right. Happiness speaks to the external qualities of life such as health, wealth, & beauty. Happiness has to do with our feelings and like our feelings, happiness can change in an instant. It's easy to feel good when all is well, but what happens when our external circumstances change? Our finances take a nose dive? The doctor gives us bad news or a relationship blows up in our face? What then?

When circumstances are hard and happiness eludes you, consider the deeper gift of Joy.

Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart that comes from knowing who God is and how much He loves you. Here is a good explanation of Joy.

It does not come from new clothes or jewelry, a new car,  relationships, or anything external. These things may make us happy for a while, but they do not bring us true joy. True Joy comes from connecting with the Spirit of God. When I am connected to God and my circumstances fail to provide me with the temporal happiness my flesh craves, Joy still pervades my soul and my spirit. Consider this verse from Ecclesiastes 2:26 :

"For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God."

Joy is a gift of God that Jesus came to bring us at this time of year. Jesus came to earth so that we may know God and that we may receive his gifts. Jesus is a choice we make.

Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren, suffered the lost of their son through suicide. Talk about devastating circumstances. Here is what she has to say about joy.

If your circumstances are less than perfect or the events of this world are getting you down this holiday season, do not despair. You can still find  joy.

If you are broken-hearted, sad, or grieving, you can still find joy.

If you are stressed out with all the demands of the season, relax. You can still find joy.

Christmas reminds us once again that God promises to always be with us, no matter where we are or what we are going through. Jesus' name "Emmanuel" means exactly that "God with us".

So today, if you have lost the joy in your life, I encourage you to find time to meet with the Giver of Joy and get to know the Christ-child, Jesus, this season. He will fill you will an unexplicable joy that never changes.

If you enjoyed this post and you'd like to receive my bi-weekly posts, please enter your name in the email box provided. I'll also send you out a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path" to help you along your way. 

Until next time, Merry Christmas and as always, keep looking up!