Happy New Year?
You've probably offered and received greetings of 'Happy New Year' several times in this past week or so. But I wonder, what is your response when you hear those words? Are you excited at the start of this new year by the new opportunities that will come your way? Are there things you are looking forward to? Perhaps you have mixed feelings about the coming year. Or maybe you're dreading what the future will bring and you're feeling anything but happy.
Happy is certainly not a word I would use to describe how I've been feeling. Actually, there's been times when I've been quite unhappy and battled with mild depression (an ongoing struggle of mine). The last few months of last year were quite tough for one reason and another and it ended with almost a month of constant migraines in December which continued on into the new year. Having said that, I did enjoy four consecutive migraine-free days over Christmas which was a miracle and a blessing.
So often our 'happy' is dependent on our circumstances. It's hard to be happy when life is tough, when we are facing various problems, when we are struggling financially, when there's conflict in our relationships and all we can see as we look ahead is more of the same. How easy it is to be happy when life is going well, when we have a job we enjoy, when our health is good, when we are in loving relationships, and when we have something to look forward to.
By this point, you may be wondering why you decided to read this post, it hasn't made you feel any better and it's actually leaving you feeling more discouraged than when you began reading. But please read on, my aim is to encourage you - honest! (I have been encouraged as I've thought about what I'm now sharing and I trust you will be too.)
I may be struggling to be happy right now (and you may be too) but God can give us something that is far greater than happiness. He is here to give us joy, his joy. The joy he longs for us to experience is not dependent on our circumstances as happiness is. We can know joy despite our circumstances, despite our poor health, despite worrying family relationships, despite whatever it is that may be taking away our feeling of 'happy'.
We are told in Nehemiah 8:10 that "the of the is your strength!" (NLT)
God is the source of our joy and he is a constant presence in our life. His joy brings us the strength to endure whatever it is we are going through. I've certainly found that when I'm unhappy, it drains me of the strength to face my day, I become weighed down with my burdens and they become too much for me. This then makes me even unhappier and the more I focus on this, the unhappier I become. And so the cycle goes on.
However, if we know and love Jesus then we have his Spirit within us and joy is a product of his Spirit working in us. We don't need to conjure up feelings of joy. What we do need is to allow the Spirit to produce his joy in us. Happiness is an emotion, a feeling, a response connected directly to our circumstances. Joy is an attitude of the heart and a choice we make regardless of what is happening around us, a decision of the mind and will, enabled by the Holy Spirit.
What brings joy to your life? Here are some of my reasons for joy:
First and foremost it's my relationship with Jesus. It's having his loving presence in my life and having fellowship with him.
We read in Psalm 16:11 You [God] make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (ESV)
Jesus said in John 15:11 I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full. (WEB)
Secondly, there is joy to be found in reading God's Word.
Jeremiah 15:16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O , God of hosts. (ESV)
Thirdly, there is also the joy that comes from the hope we have of an eternity with God in heaven and that we can experience this joy in spite of trials. Both Peter and Paul wrote about this kind of joy.
Here's just one example from Peter,
There are so many more reasons for having an attitude of joy and this may be something you wish to explore during the month of January.
My prayer for you, dear friends, and for myself is that we will experience a joyous new year and in the words of Paul's prayer in Romans 15:13 (NLT):
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
To Think About:
This year will you choose to walk in the joy of the Lord? What will help you to do this?
What brings you joy? Why not consider making a list and adding to it through the month of January (or even through the whole of this year?!) Perhaps you'd like to leave a comment about joy on my blog.
You might like to uncover and learn more truths about 'Joy' in the Bible through a word study. You could use the verses I've quoted as your starting point. Bible Gateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/) has useful resources to help with this should you wish to do so.