When our feet hit the ground in the morning, we are faced with our first decision of the day. What kind of day is it going to be? Our decision might turn on several factors. Is it sunny out, do I feel well rested, do I smell coffee brewing, or is my hair totally awesome already? All of these pathways lay at our feet before we take our first step. What is your Plan A today? Have you considered joy first?
Life never gives us a day off from challenges, trials, and fears. They march toward us on a never-ending assembly line of tasks and responsibilities. Many times we focus on looking for ways to avoid these trials only to react poorly when we fail to escape them. The book of James is a great source practical Christian living. In James 1:2-4, he writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
If you read these 3 short verses several times, and give their meaning space in your mind, then they become truly amazing. James says that we can be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” This all starts with joy, which leads to steadfastness. This steadfastness is the stability in our lives that gives us the strength to handle our trials. The question is, what is the source of our joy? And how do we acquire the joy that we need each day?
The prophet Nehemiah wrote in Nehemiah 8:10b, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” He makes it clear that the source of true joy is Jesus Christ, and from that joy springs our strength. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the bedrock of the internal joy and strength necessary to endure our daily struggles. He is the one who can eternally satisfy our deep longing for love and security when circumstances around us appear grim.
So, what can we do when we aren’t experiencing joy? The simple answer is to meditate on the gospel. That’s how the Holy Spirit applies joy to our hearts. Remember that you have been saved from sin, and its crushing effect on our life. Because of Christ’s perfect life and his atoning work on the cross, we no longer need to fear sin or death. Because of his work we are firmly in God’s hand, and nothing can separate us from God and his love for us. Abide in Christ’s love so that his joy may be in you, and your joy maybe full (John 15:12).
Song writer Chris Tomlin, wrote a version of Joy to the World that speaks to the joy that is available to us. This is the chorus from that song:
Joy, unspeakable joy
An overflowing well
No tongue can tell
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never let’s me go
Every Christmas season, I look forward to singing this song. We should make this chorus part of our daily mindset. Begin your day by focusing on Jesus and what he has done for you. We have an overflowing well of joy available to us in the gospel, and we should make joy Plan A.