Advent 3: What Happened to Your Joy?

What has happened to all your joy? – Galatians 4:15 (NIV)

 When we moved from town to the country 40 years ago, we planted three kinds of fruit trees. I had visions of homegrown apples in bowls on the counter and sparkling jars of fresh canned peaches and pears.

For the most part, though, the vision remained just a dream. The apple trees never bore fruit, never grew more than three feet high, thanks to the deer. The peach tree produced luscious peaches for a few years then shriveled up and died. 

The only fruit trees remaining are two pear trees. One is dwarfed—I think because my son shot an arrow through it when it was still quite young. The other is leafy and laden with fruit come late summer, but the pears are small, misshapen and marked with black dimples. 

To produce more and better fruit, the trees need cultivated and nurtured. The problem is we don’t have a clue. Or maybe it’s because we haven’t made the trees a priority. Until we get serious about those trees, until we take the time to learn how to care for them and then do it, the trees will struggle along, producing little usable fruit.

I tell you this story because, like fruit trees, the fruit of the Spirit also needs to be cultivated and nurtured.  

Take joy, for example.

If there is anything missing from society today, it’s joy. Just look at the faces of people you see every day. Even believers, who should be oozing joy, are not. Joy should set us apart right off the bat. 

Do you remember the joy you had at salvation? Overflowing, spilling out, you couldn’t contain it. Then little by little, life robbed you of that joy. 

Life is going to happen. Although we can’t control it, we can control our reaction to it. We can choose joy. We can make it a priority and nurture it. 

How?

First, be aware of the joy stealers that chomp away at it or shoot it right in the heart. “If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into” (Luke 12:39 NLT). Know the burglars will come. Don’t let them in.

Forgetfulness is one of those burglars. Stuck in the mire of this earthly life, we forget our past and our future: from what we’ve been saved and what awaits us in heaven.

Legalism is another joy stealer. Religion—all that we do to try and earn heaven (which can’t be earned—see Ephesians 2:8–9) binds us. Relationship—our personal relationship with God through His Son—frees us. 

Unconfessed sin, disobedience, worry, anger, people and life are other joy stealers.

Being aware of these thieves will make you more alert when they try to rob you. And when they do, don’t let them in.

How can you replace the joy you’ve lost?

Simple: Ask the joy-giver—God Himself—to fill you with His joy and help you to sustain it. Seek His presence (“In your presence is fullness of joy.” – Psalm 16:10).

Choose joy. Nurture and cultivate it. Then spread it around, letting it overflow, spilling over onto those around you. 

 As we light the third candle on the Advent wreath — the pink one, which represents joy—may we remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Amen.

Read and reflect on Galatians 5:22–23.

            © 2015 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

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Check out my devotional book series GOD, ME, AND A CUP OF TEA.

God, Me, and a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3

The Christmas Light

The people living in darkness have seen a great light.  – Matthew 4:16 (NIV)

In 1986, Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness shot to the top of the bestseller list and stayed there for nearly three years. Based on Ephesians 6:12, the book addressed spiritual warfare: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (ESV).

In 1995 Left Behind, a novel about end times based on Scripture, was released. Three years later, the first four of what would be a 16-book series held the top four spots on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously. By the time the final book of the series was published in 2007, the media looked to authors Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye as end times experts. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about darkness and end times lately. And not only because we’re right smack dab in the middle of the darkest part of the year or because I’ve recently read Where Do We Go From Here? How Tomorrow’s Prophecies Foreshadow Today’s Problems by Dr. David Jeremiah. 

While I don’t see the devil behind every tree, I do believe in spiritual warfare and believe it has been increasing. While I leave the future (and the present) in God’s hands and believe only He understands fully the prophecy about the Antichrist, I see an anti-Christ spirit growing at an alarming rate. The world is getting darker and darker.

But the world was a dark place 2,000 years ago when God sent the first Christmas Light. Born during a time when the Jews were subject to (and persecuted by) a tyrannical Roman government, God’s Son was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Mary and Joseph had to take Him and flee to Egypt because a crazy, jealous king ordered hundreds of baby boys murdered to eliminate any competition to his throne. A little over three decades later, after spending three years doing good, He was deserted by those closest to Him, rejected by the nation He came to save, and executed on trumped up charges.

But “in Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it (can never extinguish it)” (John 1:5).

Jesus was the first Christmas light, and He still shines today, giving us hope for a better future when He returns:

 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. . . . There will be no more night . . . for the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 21:1–22:5).

So don’t despair when you hear the latest news. Let the Christmas lights remind you of the hope that is yours through faith in the Baby whose birth those lights celebrate.

Let the Christmas lights shine brighter than the darkest news headlines, and remind me of the Light of the World, to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He alone is Lord! Amen.

Read and reflect on Isaiah 9:2–7

© 2012 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.