Searching for Joy
Have you got your Joy on? We are now twelve days away from Christmas. Are you feeling the joy?
I read an ad for a regional grocery store earlier this week that suggests that we need to “sprinkle joy”. I suppose we could do that by cooking up goodies but sprinkling joy seems kind of weak. The local car wash sign reads “spread joy” and recommended to accomplish that by simply smiling. Spreading sounds a bit more involved but still not quite effective with just a smile. The radio station proposes that we “find joy”. They contend that we can do that by listening to their station. Now finding joy seems to be a little more in order in this fast paced season of goodness. However whether we sprinkle, spread, or find joy perhaps a better understanding of joy is in order.
The one thing that all of these ads have in common is that they all seem to offer that if it is joy we seek we must move beyond ourselves or we won’t find it. It appears that for joy to work we must have a greater cause than ourselves in which to live. Today, as he delivered his Sunday noontime window appearance even the Pope is suggesting we must find joy. Pope Francis said, “Man’s heart desires joy. If we desire joy then we must understand exactly what joy is or rather what it isn’t.
Joy is not happiness. Happiness is external and is only affected by circumstances. We can contend that we are happy because we’ve got lots of money, we’re going on a vacation, or we own the latest gadget. Happiness is not joy, happiness is a cover up. It is the attempt to satisfy ourselves with the things of this world. Happiness comes in a rush, it’s fast, and it’s immediate. If we give this some thought we will also realize that it most often rushes out as fast as it arrives and leaves us as it skips out the door, with a feeling of its polar opposite; unhappiness. Happiness boils down to the “happenings” around us. If it isn’t “happening” the way we want then we aren’t happy.
Joy on the other hand is contentment. Joy is internal and it defeats discouragement. Joy is not circumstances, it is greater, and can only be found through the quiet knowledge of the blessed salvation of Christ. Joy is in knowing that no matter the “happenings” around us that God is in control. Joy is seeing beyond the immediate and moving confidently in the “big picture” of God. Some of the greatest people of the Bible found joy in dire circumstances, such as David, Nehemiah, Paul, and many others. (Psalm 16:9, Nehemiah 8:10, and Philippians 1:25)
As we move closer to the celebrated day of Christmas many of us get caught up in the happiness of the celebration instead of the joy and when the celebrating ends, the happiness runs out the door. Joy is not found in the gifts, the food, or the decorations. Joy is the satisfaction and comfort knowing that God is with us always if we will seek Him out. This week our focus verse is found in Matthew 2:10 as the wise men have traveled to find the Christ child and there with Him they find joy.
When they saw the star, they were filled with Joy! (NLT)
So if joy is so great where do we find it? If we want to find joy then we must be willing to act like a “wise man” and search for it. We do not know a lot about the wise men but we do know they searched somewhere from between six months and two years to find the Christ child after His birth. These men followed a strange star that suddenly appeared in the sky and did so most likely because of their high level of learning as they were well acquainted with the prophecies of the Old Testament. The star that they followed guided them where they needed to go.
That is significant as they kept moving following the star. They did not grow weary over the time period and just stop following the star. They diligently followed it until they found what they were looking for. Through determination they met the goal of their mission. And the scripture tells us that when the star led them to the Christ child that, “They were filled with joy!” How relieved and grateful they must have felt upon finally finding what they had searched for so long.
Have you ever searched for something for a long time? Maybe you lost something and looked for it everywhere and just when you were about to give up you found it. The inner relief and emotions of joy that come when you finally feel that weight leave and your mission accomplished can be overwhelming. There are many things that occur in life that can create these overwhelming emotions of joy due to relief. Sometimes it is a cure for an illness, a troubled child returns home, or perhaps it is just the simple relief that comes when you realize you are presently trouble-free.
Many years ago on a summer vacation out west my family and I experienced a great inner most relief upon finding something too. Now certainly it is not of the same magnitude as searching for the Messiah but it was a search and relief that I can identify with the emotions that the Magi may have felt upon purposefully seeking out the Christ child and finding Him.
It was early on in our trip and we were on our way to South Dakota. My husband decided that we needed to see the United States through the National Parks and so the trip planning began. He determined that we would camp as we traveled and so like the accurate precision of a military strategy, a plan was laid out in a grid-like manner down to just about every detail that could be imagined except this one. What was not anticipated was the lack of gas stations that we would encounter as we traveled through the plains.
We knew we had to cover “x” number of miles each day in order to make the prearranged and secured sites for each travel day. We had filled up our gas tank as we began that morning and were enjoying the countryside of beautiful, dark, green, and luscious fields laden with corn. There were miles and miles of corn and did I mention all of the corn we saw? As we traveled my spouse pointed out that our tank was below the halfway mark and we should begin being alert to gas stations as we had not seen very many.
It wasn’t long before our tank was at the quarter mark and we were deep in the fields of corn in the beautiful state of Iowa. My husband was getting to be a bit on edge as he did not like to travel with a low gas tank level and he began to stress that we needed to be more diligent in searching for gas even if it was off the immediate highway. He had me looking for towns on the map and determining how far off the highway they may lay as we continued to travel north and our gas gauge continued to travel south to the “e”.
Suddenly before we knew it the gas gauge empty light went on and now we were becoming a little anxious as there appeared to be no gas stations and no towns within a reasonable distance. He announced that at the next intersection he was pulling off and we would travel to see if we could find a town with a ready gas supply.
We pulled off and began traveling into what seemed like fields of corn and even less population than we had seen on the highway. We continued however to restlessly pursue gas as we had seen a sign announcing a town and just felt like we would find the precious commodity we sought there. As we entered the “so-called” town it was not looking so promising. We saw no signs of storefronts, restaurants, or the thing we so desperately needed, gas.
We traveled slowly searching up and down the streets for anything that might resemble what we would recognize as the remote possibility of solving our problem but there really didn’t even seem to be people in this “town” except a garage bay where there were a group of men watching us very suspiciously. After we made several trips moving slowly through the town I told my husband that he was going to have to stop and just ask where a gas station was because it would not be long before we would be empty.
He finally agreed deciding that the group of men standing around the garage was the only choice we had to attempt to solve our problem. He slowly pulled off the road, parked, and as he exited the vehicle laughed telling me that if he didn’t return in a reasonable amount of time to move into the driver’s seat and travel back to the highway as fast as I could until I could find help, run out of gas, or both. I watched him stride across the property’s lot until I couldn’t see him any longer. It wasn’t long before I could hear men laughing and suddenly my imagination began to develop into every negative possibility that could be occurring.
And as I was anticipating my jump into the driver’s seat suddenly my husband rounded the vehicle and hopped back in announcing that there was no gas station in this town and the next one was over fifty miles away. Stunned, I began spewing forth useless questions that solved no problems such as how could the people of this town live without a gas station and why would they have a garage in the town when you couldn’t even buy gas? My husband cut my questions in mid-speech stating that they did have gas they just didn’t have it for everyone and you had to have a special member’s card in order to get the gas that was available by the pumps over at the railroad track.
I sat speechless as he then went on to further elaborate that the men had felt sorry for us and one agreed to go over, allow the use of his member card to purchase gas, and in turn we would pay him cash for the product. As the gas pumped into the vehicle we were feeling very grateful to the man for interrupting his day for our unforeseen emergency. We were also feeling a bit chagrined about our initial perception of the town and its population.
The relief that we felt upon filling up the empty gas tank had us just giddy with the overwhelming relief of joy that we were not going to be stranded on the side of the corn field for an indefinite amount of time. The joy derived from the inner most contentment that everything was going to be ok. I can also promise you that for the rest of the trip our tank never reached below the halfway mark as we learned you never know when you may find yourself in the middle of a field surrounded by nothing.
It is indeed because of this fact that in life we too often do not know when we may suddenly find ourselves surrounded by nothing. It is then we must be able to draw upon the strength that comes from the joy that knowing Christ offers in order to keep moving forward. If we want joy though we must search for it and we must do so not only boldly but diligently. If we seek joy we have to want it and search it out in order to find it.
True innermost joy comes only from searching out the Christ child just like the “wise men” and understanding clearly that joy is not happenstance. To find joy we can filter the steps down to three simple things.
- If we are seeking joy we must look in the right place and this begins with scripture. A daily time with God in His Word is very important as it is there that we will continue to learn about God and all that He provides for us along with the ultimate gift any of us can ever receive, the gift of salvation. It is through the acceptance of this gift that the key to joy will be found. The shepherds were told about it by the angels in Luke 2:10b. Jesus, himself, tells us that as long as we maintain our relationship with Him like branches that belong on a vine that we will find ourselves filled with overflowing joy. (John 15:11)
- Joy is found while learning to depend on Christ during prayer and spending time in meditation, just listening. We need to slow down to experience joy and understand it. The wise men didn’t find Jesus in a day and they didn’t give up their search. They continued to search until they found Him and when they arrived they were filled with joy. If we want to be filled with joy we must slow down and learn to know Christ on His terms not ours.
- Above all we must constantly remember that God is with us and it is through Him we will find our strength even when the “happenings” of our life are not so great. Emmanuel means God with Us. It is this time of year that we celebrate that God came to earth to be part of us and to save us from ourselves. It is through our faith as Paul tells us in Philippians 1:25 that we can experience joy.
Have you got your Joy on now? If not then continue to seek Christ. We will not find Him though in the manger stall, at the cross, or even the tomb. We will only find Him by searching diligently through our hearts for it is there we will find our Savior and it is there we will find overflowing joy!
Love in Christ,
Post Script; For those interested, I am really no further along on my Christmas preparations than I was last week except I did remove the shriveling pumpkins from the front door step, the gourds are now removed from the kitchen table, and the Nativities are down from the attic although they are not set up. But I figure what is the rush after all there are twelve days of Christmas, right? Have a great joy filled week!
What are Your Thoughts on Joy? Join Us in Discussion.
Have you got your Joy on? Has your joy misplaced itself for Christmas? What about the joy in your life, can everyone see it, or is it missing in action? Do you confuse happiness with joy? Have you found other ways of seeking out Christ to find joy? Join us in discussion on the topic of joy or other related topics.