Happiness is like a butterfly, floating on breezes from flower to flower for the nectar, hoping for a sweet taste at each new blossom.
Joy is something different. It is settled and sure. It doesn’t depend on the sweetness of life. It is determined by Truth.
As I read the story of Jesus birth in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, I see joy and rejoicing on the pages and the response of praise and worship.
An accurate reading of the Scripture doesn’t paint a rosey picture of people living in ease, free of hardships. Just the opposite.
But in the muddle and the mundane, in the predicament and the perplexity, in the struggle and the stress there is joy.
An aged woman, Elizabeth, carries a baby who leaps for joy in her womb. (Luke 1:44)
Pregnant and unwed Mary sings the song of a soul rejoicing. (Luke 1:47)
Neighbors who once whispered about a disgraced, childless couple, now share the joy of a baby named John. (Luke 1:58)
Angels descending, prepared to do battle, bring tidings of great joy to sheep keepers, and they shout praises to God in the highest. (Luke 2:13, 14
Lowly shepherds glorify God when they find Him and share the good news. (Luke 2:20)
An old man Simeon, just waiting to die, and a long-time widow named Anna rejoice to actually see with feeble eyes the Promise of God. (Luke 2:28, 28)
Wise men on long, hard journey, see the star in the sky and rejoice with exceeding great joy. (Matthew 2:10)
Joy is written all over this story.
It is not the easy happiness that comes from the next indulgence, the next purchase, the next taste of pleasure. This is joy beyond circumstances, joy that hopes for a future, joy that rests in a God who keeps His promises no matter how long we wait for them. This joy is a continual feast, receiving eternally good things from the hand of the life-Giver.
Have you fought for joy? I have. When it felt like I was drowning in a sea of trouble and trial, I wanted pain relief. I wanted ease. I wanted the taste of pleasure. I wanted what I wanted.
During the great difficulty, I started looking for gifts, numbering them one by one, writing them in a notebook. The simple and everyday began to look like bliss, luxury, pure grace.
The chair at my table. The lights in my window. The piano in my parlor. The food in my fridge. The sheets on my bed. Sweet William at my side. Friends who pray and love. Neighbors who offer. All gifts. All undeserved. All from a loving Father.
I recently heard a speaker say, “Anything above hell is a blessing.” I acknowledge those words are true. Because I deserve nothing. Born in sin, a sinner at heart, forever flawed, I am not worthy of the attention of a holy God. And yet, He loves me with an everlasting love. He purposed the plan for my redemption. He canceled my debt. He came for me.
And that dear friends is Joy!