Q: Dear Pastor,
It’s Christmas. I’m not feeling it. I think I’ve lost my joy.
A: Yes, and God wants you to have it, my friend. Of all the Christian attributes we’re told by God to acquire or at least seek out, joy is often our biggest challenge. Here in America, with a relentless work ethic which includes inhumane performance pressures, self-imposed obligations and responsibilities, we often lose the ability to cultivate the feeling of simple joy. I’m not saying there isn’t joyful work that we accomplish (I just made 12 dozen cookies). No, but most of us can’t readily recall how to relax or have a good time any more. We’ve lost the ability somewhere under the workload. Throw in the holidays and nervous breakdowns begin to sound like vacations as we navigate ongoing exhaustion.
There are many clichés church people recite pertaining to joy. Some of us have heard them so often, we forget that they are quotes from almighty God sent to encourage us. Let us review as we approach our joyful Christmas Day:
“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB).
It truly is. However, in context, this Bible verse includes something deeper: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I cannot think of a more difficult time of year for people who are dealing with loss. Loss of a marriage, a baby, a loved-one, a dream, a job. Grief comes like a thief to destroy our joy at Christmas. Take heart! God is still in the mix. He is still working, still planning and still believing in you. He will see you through as you give your grief to him. Find relief from your burden… and rest. Rest is joy in the making.
“Joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:50).
The whole verse says, “Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” It’s beginning to sound like God deals in opposites. Whatever darkness our world brings toward us, God is the answer to reverse the trajectory. He will turn our weeping into joy. We have a promise that by tomorrow, things will be different if we allow God to touch our aching hearts (and bodies) and trust him with our outcomes. Blaming God for our pain, by the way, doesn’t help at all and is always the wrong conclusion. God isn’t the one to bring us pain. How could he? He’s the only one who can heal it.
“Make a joyful noise” (Psalm 100).
King David, the world’s most famous worshiping king, calls us to sing songs of joy whether we feel like it or not. “Worship the Lord with gladness… come before him with joyful songs.” Can’t sing? Sure you can. God loves the voice he gave you and is asking you to let him hear it. It’ll change your heart from sad to glad, guaranteed. And there’s plenty of Christmas music around to get you started.
There have been countless times in my life I’ve held to Jesus with white knuckles and bloody fingernails in order to get through something. I didn’t find joy, per se, in the moment… but I certainly found hope to keep me going another day. By and by, my situation and attitude toward it began to change because I looked to God instead of my circumstances. Joy returned to me in teaspoons, then cups and bushels, and with it my comfort in God who is the source of all my joy.
Peace and rest to you this week as you discover the warmth of a quiet joy in the celebration of our savior, Jesus. He is the joyful reason for this season.
Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: email@example.com or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information on Pastor Adrienne, or to purchase her book, “Ask Pastor Adrienne: 100 Best-loved Columns,” please visit www.adriennewgreene.com.
Ask Pastor Adrienne: Find the joy God wants you to have
Q: Dear Pastor,