But more seriously, this idea that Christ brings joy to the world is often tough to embrace. It's very easy to say that we have joy in Christ and blah blah blah. But church speak is usually much easier said than done. How do you bring joy down to earth in a practical way, especially when cynicism, complaining, pain, suffering, bitterness, and loss are as accessible to us as a McDonald's drive-thru?
I have my share of problems, and joy doesn't come any easier to me than the next person. But that's the key - joy doesn't come to you. You have to come to joy. To live in joy means not just knowing the promises and victory that you have in Christ, but intentionally practicing the things that God has given you despite your circumstances. So that we can say like Nehemiah, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
I was very encouraged this week by an example of this that I experienced at Breakthrough. One of our case managers shared an email with us from a former guest who now has a stable job and is living on his own. He is in a much better place in life than where he was before coming to Breakthrough - he had lost both his wife and his daughter, and found himself homeless and depressed. The joy of the Lord made the difference for him. I am sharing his letter with you here to close. I hope it encourages you to live joyfully this holiday season and beyond.
I hope you are feeling blessed this day--I am! Today my wife would have been 55 years old. She loved to be surprised on her birthday, and I loved to surprise her. Normally, since she passed, this day, along with the short days and cold, bitter winds would send me into deep depression. But today, all I can think about is what a beautiful thing God did when He created her, and gave her life to me.
Yes, the hurt is still there, the gaping hole in my soul and my heart that I thought could never be - repaired, yet, He's done that, not replaced – but repaired. And that's a good thing because my stirring memories of her and my daughter are the most precious feelings I have.
Enough. I suppose I have to get back to work. I LIKE saying that!