Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Joy Project- Joy comes in the...?

I heard on a podcast that Facebook receives some of its heaviest traffic on Christmas Day. Yesterday evening, I scrolled through to see what other people had been up to through the course of the day, and I think that the podcast was telling the truth. Christmas cheer was posted everywhere. Families in front of Christmas trees, moms and dads putting together toys, babies in Christmas pj's, mine among them.

Christmas is a beautiful day. A day filled with joy. There are presents, there is food, there's time to think about the "reason for the season." I think the majority of people, no matter their location or their circumstances, seem to be thankful on Christmas day... or at least, that's the story that my Facebook told me.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate on this day, isn't it? But will the anxieties wake up with us on December 26th? Mine did. I didn't even make it until morning. I have a bad cold (so does Story, and Andy's not far behind, either) and the need to breath woke me up in the middle of the night. I prayed some, but sleep wouldn't come. Some wounds and worries are not so easily placated, even when life is at its happiest.

That's the thing about joy, though. It's not circumstantial the way that happiness is. Yesterday was an incredibly happy day. I give God thanks for that. But, as I am learning, joy is not happiness's side-kick. It comes on its own terms. The advent of the Christ-child is a perfect reminder of this. He is the ultimate reason for joy. But think about it... baby boys are born all the time. And I figure that more than one might have even been born in a stable in Judea. So why all the fuss over this one? Because He was born to die. The joy of His birth is nothing without the reality of His death on my behalf.

So joy is so often accompanied by hardship. And today, or rather, this middle of the night, is no different. Some of the sad things from the past, some of the anxieties over the future, they have kept me up. I confess, I started out feeling guilty about that. I wrote in my journal... "Is it me, Lord? What have I done or not done that's keeping me awake?" I'm still struggling to learn that it is okay, as a Christian, to have anxiety, to experience sadness, or to feel disappointment deep down. It's okay to ask, "Why?" or "How long, oh Lord?" As it turns out, God doesn't deny me joy when I feel this way or say these things. I guess this is why so many of David's words made it into the Bible. How comforting it is to know that God cherishes David's anxieties so much that He makes them a part of His holy word. God doesn't say that I'm never going to experience any of the keep-you-up-at-night hard stuff. In fact, in some ways, I think He wants it for me. But, what He does say is, "When you're up all night, I'll be right there with you."

Psalm 30:5 says that weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. I wonder, can you really experience the same measure of joy if you weren't weeping during the night? I don't know, but it's good to think that God apportions a special measure of joy to His up-all-nighters.

Let me clarify before I close. My circumstances aren't any different than they were when I woke up at 3AM. In fact, some of them aren't different than they were a year ago. As I spent some time with God this morning, I went back to old journal entries, and found prayers from over a year ago that are almost exactly the same as ones I prayed tonight. I am still waiting on the Lord. But the Lord, He is the same- yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But there is joy in knowing that I am free to come to Him any time, free to wrap myself up in His Word, free to cast every anxiety upon Him, because He cares for me. I'd love to look back on tonight's journal entries a year from now and see that God has caused the circumstances to change. But, if I sit here and say the same prayer one year from now, at least I know that I'll be able to rejoice, and I won't even have to wait for the morning.

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