EULESS, Texas (BP)–We are entering into the most wonderful time of the year. Many of us are planning our Christmas vacations or shopping for Christmas toys. Our families join together to decorate trees and houses with bright lights and ornaments. We will attend Christmas parties and celebrate the season with friends. Many will visit a church for the first time this year. And the entire world joins together to celebrate this special season.
It is a time of joy.
But what is joy? “Joy” is a peculiar word. In the dictionary, the word is defined as, “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune.” But how does the Bible explain joy? Is joy truly tied to our circumstances, like the dictionary describes? Can we experience joy only as we experience “well-being, success, or good fortune?”
The Bible teaches us that true joy can live in our hearts despite external pressures and adverse circumstances. As we study the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we realize that she experienced joy at the prospect of her unexpected pregnancy. In fact, she faced external pressures and adverse circumstances. Who would believe that this was a divine birth? Who would believe that she had never known a man? After all, she was pregnant. What would Joseph think? Mary faced adverse circumstances. But what did she experience as the news came that she would bear Jesus? She experienced joy! Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word!” Mary experienced joy in trying times and so can we. How does this happen?
First, we avoid tying our joy to external circumstances. Biblical joy goes beyond the dictionary’s definition of joy. Biblical joy is not bound to external circumstances. Mary’s joy was not tied to the hardships she would face during her pregnancy. Her joy was not tied to everyone in Nazareth embracing her news. Her joy was not tied to external circumstances. Our joy is fickle if we attempt to tie it to our circumstances because our circumstances constantly change.
Second, we attach our joy to an eternal perspective. If we attach our joy to God and his work, then we know that we are moving in the right direction. This is how Mary lived her life: she attached her joy to God’s work. In this, she experienced true joy in life. She saw God’s work in the unnatural, invisible and unusual in her life. As she lived in expectancy of God’s work, she experienced joy. As we attach our joy to the Lord’s work in our lives, we will experience a deep, abiding joy.
God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to the world so that we might experience connection with God and joy on earth. This is the season for joy. Our families have the opportunity to look beyond our circumstances and experience true joy in life: the kind of joy that lies beyond external circumstances and is tied to the Lord and his work. Let’s experience joy during this most wonderful time of the year.
Additional resources by Claude Thomas on Christian living are available at Lifepoints, www.firstonthe.net.