A Difficult Year for Joy

One of the challenges of 2020 is an unrelenting stream of difficult news is constantly at war with our efforts to be hopeful and joyful. A cynical man might almost be afraid to be happy, in case word leaked out and the forces at work this year rose up and squashed him just for spite. We do not want to be cynical. The Christian is called to a contagious and indestructible joy. In light of that, I want to consider two questions briefly: Where does a joy like that come from, and how is it possible to be happy when your circumstances are sideways?

Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again – rejoice!   — Paul (Philippians 4:4)

It is worth noting that the apostle Paul said this to the Philippians while he was languishing in prison without a definite release date. It’s easy to feel joyful on a soft summer day, or when your body is fully healthy, or you are sitting around a table full of food with your family. However, the kind of joy which Paul had, and the kind that he wanted the Philippians to have, is not subject to rapidly changing circumstances. This is a joy which is not snuffed out when your room is a cold stone prison, your meals scarce, or your body is cold and aching. 

Solid Joy Comes From Fixed Realities

There is so little that is permanent or secure in the world. One positive effect that has come from this year is that our false idols of comfort and security have been exposed and removed. We have misplaced our hope in the things of the world that constantly change. In contrast, our God never changes. “I do not change” (Malachi 3:5). “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Even more amazing, this dependable God gives those who hope in Him a trustworthy hope:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.    —1 Peter 1:3-4

Our solid joy is secured by an unchanging God who has given us a living hope and an imperishable inheritance. If you do not know this living hope or the God who gives it, today is the day to seek Him for the unshakeable ground, the lasting promise, the love which does not fail. 

Make Time To Express Gratitude

As Thanksgiving draws near, we have much to be thankful for. It is good to be grateful. It is even better to remember to express that gratitude to God. The ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) were probably all grateful to be healed, but only one returned to express his gratitude. In a year with so many challenges, let’s make sure we take time to thank and honor God, who gives us a hope that will never fade.