I’m bad. I never seek a word from God–a one word theme for the New Year as so many do, but this New Year, God gave me the word anyway. Really put it on my heart.
From Christmas onward, it began…the word “Joy” kept popping up everywhere. In sermons at church, in my readings, in dreams, in songs, in my thoughts…
…even on the battered old cup I drink from every day.
So, I didn’t even make a New Years list of resolutions this year. I have my goals, but I don’t need a list of resolutions. I just need to hold onto JOY.
A new year holds promise and hope. January 1st…and for a few weeks, it’s easy to hold on to joy, promises, goals, dreams.
But…then there is reality. We have to deal in day to day stuff, hardships, issues, struggles. Two weeks after starting that new diet, we fail. (At least I did). A few months in to the new year, we often find ourselves disappointed. Our work is boring. Bills still must be paid. Sickness and illnesses still strike us and our families. Those goals we set are still so far from our reach.
James 1:2-4 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Which I take to mean that Joy is the key to Christian living, even if the circumstances of our lives are far from joyful.
Though, I will admit that a couple years ago, during a Bible study, when we pondered on this Scripture quote, I actually got a little bit angry. Seriously? Who is joyful when everything is coming against them? It’s not reality. Life is hard. But as I pondered on that verse…God spoke to my heart. Be joyful anyway. Trust me.
Philippians 4:4 says, Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Baruch 4:36, 5:1-4 says, O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God. Put off, O Jerusalem the garment of thy mourning and affliction, and put on the comeliness of the glory that cometh from God for ever. Cast about thee a double garment of the righteousness which cometh from God; and set a diadem on thine head of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever The Peace Of Righteousness, and The Glory of God’s Worship.
Fanny Crosby (Mrs. Frances Jane Van Alstyne), a blind poet, wrote thousands of gospel songs including “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing” and “Saved by Grace.” She knew how to hold onto JOY. I’m going to take a cue from her.
Here’s a story about Frannie from, Our Daily Bread (August 12, 2003):
Fanny Crosby lost her sight when she was only 6 weeks old. She lived into her nineties, composing thousands of beloved hymns. On her 92nd birthday she cheerfully said, “If in all the world you can find a happier person than I am, do bring him to me. I should like to shake his hand.”
What enabled Fanny Crosby to experience such joy in the face of what many would term a “tragedy”? At an early age she chose to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). In fact, Fanny carried out a resolution she made when she was only 8 years old: “How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t. To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t.”
Let’s remember that “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Let’s also take comfort in the teachings of Jesus, who in John 15:11 said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” When faced with the choice of self-pity or rejoicing, let’s respond with rejoicing.
Here’s to a JOY-FUL 2016!
And the writing prompt: Try this…Sit quietly in a comfortable place with a pen and a writing journal or piece of paper. Say the word “JOY” out loud. Now close your eyes. Now say the word “joy” quietly to yourself. Allow the word joy to bounce around your mind. What images come to you? What memories? Open your eyes. Now, get out your writing journal and write down your thoughts!