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The Cost of Joy

Weekly Devotionals

The Cost of Joy

John 16: 20-22 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

The third week of Advent represents the theme of joy. We probably heard somewhere that happiness is circumstantial and fleeting while joy rises above circumstance and is everlasting. This is indeed true. The problem is that we assume that as Christians, we should automatically have joy. If we have Christ and we trust Him, then it follows that we should have joy as well. If that’s true, why don’t we experience joy more often in our lives?

I think it’s a mistake to think that joy comes naturally, as if it comes bundled with salvation. We tend to think that the four virtues of Advent (hope, love, joy, peace) are gifted to us so we just need to realize that it’s already ours and claim it. From my experience, I don’t know if joy, or any of the virtues, will ever come this easily.

Here’s two reasons why.

1. Joy is a choice. In general, I think the modern Christian favors freedom and authenticity over discipline and tradition. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far to one side. If we don’t practice our spiritual disciplines (reading the Word, praying, fasting, etc), we shouldn’t be surprised that joy seems distant when trials come. We need to choose to be joyful even when circumstances dictate otherwise, but the power to choose joy comes from practicing spiritual disciplines for years and years. It’s like a muscle that needs to be developed. Joy takes practice.

2. Joy is not free. The passage above also shows us that joy is not free. The joy of holding a child can only come after the pain of giving birth. Think of the most joyful events in your life. My guess is that it was a journey filled with some pain and effort. The joy of Advent was also not free. Christ had to come in the form of a child and face a horrific and unjoyful event. He chose to be crucified so that the gift of joy may be offered to all of us. Christ truly is the source of joy.

In this light, spiritual disciplines are just ways to be closer to Christ. So if you’re wondering why you don’t have more joy, ask yourself instead how well you know Jesus. Are you abiding in Him, talking to Him, learning more about who He is? This Advent, I pray that we move past the sentimental idea that joy is either automatic or free and embrace a true relationship with Christ.