Yesterday, we talked about the difference between joy and happiness. It’s an important thing to remember, especially during the Christmas season. For instance, most of us probably aren’t happy to get up on a Monday morning and go to work or take the kids to school. I don’t normally walk into the office singing “Oh Happy Day.” School, work, and appointments are a necessity in life, not always a source of smiles and giggles, but something that must be done.
We can, however, have a sense of joy. Joy because we have a job and God has provided us with a way to take care of our families and loved ones. Joy because we have the opportunity to learn, gain wisdom, and help others. Joy because even when we have to go to that appointment, we’re reminded that we are made in God’s image and He will take care of us.
You see, happiness just, well, happens. A joke, a good meal, affection from a loved one, a funny meme. Those bring happiness. And often that happiness melts away soon after its cause. But joy? Joy must be cultivated. It requires work and mental preparation. It means rethinking your thinking.
You see, Paul, a follower of Jesus, tells us in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Paul wasn’t insane, despite an insult from Festus in Acts. No, Paul was a learned man, a man who made logical decisions based on supernatural occurrences. Paul was disowned by his own people, beaten, whipped, imprisoned, abandoned, and ultimately executed for his faith. How on earth does this man have the wherewithal to tell us to rejoice, to be full of joy?
The key is in the 3 words following rejoice. In the Lord. This means that because of our union with Christ, we rejoice. And it is the determining factor in Paul’s exhortation. We can have joy, always, because of Jesus.
Let me give an example: When Christina and I first got married, I was pastoring a small rural church and working as a janitor in a hospital. My boss at the hospital didn’t like me too much. Even my co-workers felt that she had it in for me. After a year of trying to meet unrealistic expectations, she had me fired. As I was sitting with her in HR with the HR manager, I had been silently praying. After I was handed my final check, I was asked if I had something to say. I managed to say, “Well, obviously I’m disappointed I’m being let go, but I want to thank you both for the opportunity to work here. This job has always been a stepping stone and now it must be time to find something else. I wish you both nothing but the best.” And I walked out with a smile on my face.
Look friends, I am not psychotic. Well, not entirely. I had just lost my main source of income. I lost health insurance during a season when we desperately needed it. But I was able to still have joy. Not because I am Super-Christian, but because I remembered Jesus. That he was and is with me. He is Immanuel, God with Us. He is with you today, despite how bad a case of the Mondays you may have. He is with us. And that, well, that brings us Joy.