The Greatest Joy

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Have you ever seen The Pursuit of Happyness? The movie stars Will Smith as a father who loses his job and proceeds to navigate the struggles that can result from unemployment: a dissolving marriage, raising a young child as a single parent, homelessness, and poverty. Ultimately, the movie is a depiction of one man’s journey through profound suffering. While I have no qualms with the premise of the movie, I do take issue with the title.

The Pursuit of Happyness. Often times we are encouraged, whether by society or other individuals, to strive for happiness. Attaining happiness is easy when we are free from suffering, financially secure, and our relationships are going well. However, when adversity strikes, happiness quickly gives way to stress and sadness. The reality is that happiness is contingent upon our life circumstances, so why would anyone ever encourage us to pursue something that is so fleeting?

Interestingly, though, the Bible does not promise us happiness.

Happiness and joy are distinctly different. Happiness is an emotional reaction to the positive or negative impacts that events and individuals have on us as a person. Joy, on the other hand, is a constant, deep-rooted hope and trust that God’s goodness remains despite our ever-changing life circumstances.

Not only does Scripture promise that life with Christ will bring joy, but our joy will remain even in the midst of sorrow. This promise is best witnessed in the Christmas story, where joy became flesh in the lowliest of circumstances. Displaced from their home, Mary and Joseph made the arduous journey to Bethlehem. The expectant parents, exhausted and worn, desperately searched for housing, only to find that every room was occupied. The couple found shelter in a stable, resting among the livestock. It was there, amidst challenges and difficulties, that the Greatest Joy was born into the world.

As we enter into Advent, I challenge each of you to meditate with the Christmas story and the message of joy that it brings. Are you pursuing happiness or joy? What are the areas in your life where joy abounds? What areas in your life need more joy?

I pray that the joy of the Gospel fills your heart this Advent season!