Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When Joy Moves In

“Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment." (Job 20:4-5, NIV)

I flicked on the TV in the kitchen to catch the days news as I prepared dinner last night.  Immediately, I was bombarded with commercials that did an excellent job of making a 30 second case for why their product was the ultimate way to obtain joy.  The first was from a cable company.  Really?  If I subscribe to this cable company and add on extra services I'll have a good-looking spouse who embraces me and delights in surprising me?  The next was for a car company.  You mean the ultimate Christmas joy looks like giving my spouse a new vehicle with a giant bow on top of it?  Wow!  I'm not going to have a good holiday if I can't afford that.

It occurred to me that the joy the world tries to seduce us with is utterly hopeless.  Cable TV goes out or the price goes up, leaving us frustrated or dissatisfied over time.  Cars need maintenance and repair.  Ultimately every vehicle needs to be replace.  Name your desire in this world -- relationships, health, vacations, material possessions, power, money.  Every single bit of it is fleeting!

So in this fourth week of Advent where the theme is joy, how can we obtain this seemingly elusive quality, and what does it exactly meant?  Let me answer the second question first by describing what joy is not.  Joy is not necessarily happiness.  It is not having everything go our way.  It is not security or possessions or healthy relationships.

Joy transcends our circumstances.  If you look at the Bible's many references to joy, you will see that the Greek word "chara", which means delight, is tied directly to God.  In fact, my impression in reading through all 242 verses where the word is used, most commonly involves a remembrance of what the Lord has just done for a person or a group.  In other words, joy is that delight, that contentment in knowing that no matter what the circumstances are now, God has been faithful before and He will be faithful again.

During the remaining days before Christmas, spend some quiet time in God's word.  Even if you have to get up a few minutes earlier or stay up a few minutes later, time alone with Him is well worth the sacrifice.  Look at the eye-witness accounts of seemingly impossible situations that the Lord brought people through.  Is anything too tough for Him? (see Jeremiah 32:27)  Now look at your own life and delight in the fact that your Creator has numbered every hair on your head. (see Luke 12:7)  If He cares that deeply for you, can you not trust that He is big enough to see you through any of life's difficulties?

Contemplating such things should bring you great joy during a season where things can be chaotic and misguided.  Such joy is a lasting, deep contentment in knowing Who the sure foundation of your life is.  And He cared enough to humble Himself and live amongst us for 33 years all for our benefit.  Certainly nothing the world has to offer can match that!

Pray:  Lord, it is so easy to focus on what I do not have as the world bombards me with advertising and the kids whine for possessions this time of year.  Help me to abide in Your deep joy that is not brief, but everlasting.

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