Happiness is an emotion. Joy is a state of being. It is not fickle like our emotions which are easily swayed by circumstances.
How does this Christmas season find you? Are you surrounded by family and friends? Are you healthy? Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? Are you alone?
The world, all of its advertising and entertainment, shout that we should all be happy at this time of year. We should be happy because we have a new item. We should be happy because that next great movie, CD, meal, (fill in the blank) is coming to you.
But none of those things help when you are struggling to keep your head up high, feeling more like you want to cry than laugh. Every Christmas carol and every sight of happy twinkling lights fills you with sadness. Memories flood your mind and your heart aches. What do you do if you have no family to celebrate with? What do you do if you feel lonely and nothing provides relief? Does anyone even care?
These were my thoughts over the past few days. I'm happy. Emotion. But I'm also joyful because of God's love for me and my family. We are together yet another year and that is a tremendous gift from Him.
As I've been running around trying to balance responsibilities at work, care for my grandmother while mom's been away, make cookies for students and friends, I was growing increasingly more exhausted.
There was so much I wanted to do! But I couldn't do everything. And I finally had to take a break from all the running around to reflect on what Christmas really means. God reminded me that I have to focus and do the things that really matter. And that realization made me see that for those who are lonely and hurting the best gift I could ever give was my time.
I had been tempted to cancel a meeting with a friend earlier this week. " I'm so busy! How can I make time to visit when I have so much to do?"
Those were my initial thoughts. But then I remembered that this friend doesn't have anyone right now. And then I felt ashamed that I couldn't even spare an hour to visit someone who really needed a friend. So I grabbed some the cookies I made, wrapped them up nice and pretty, and went to make a visit.
And you know what ended up happening? I had gone with the intention of encouraging and uplifting. But at the end of the visit I found myself feeling encouraged and uplifted to the point that I didn't want to leave.
Of course my friend was happier too. But I left that evening feeling as if I received double of whatever I gave. It was as if God was showering me with his love. At one point during the visit I was close to tears. And I learned something. God is so very close to us when we share his love with others. I had gone with intention of giving my friend some happiness. Emotion. And we both finished the evening experiencing joy. State of being. And through joy we felt happy. Nice how that works.
The time we spend with others is what they will remember of us. The memories of our attitudes, our words, everything we are.
So my prayer for all of us is simply this: May God grant us the courage to love those that He brings into our lives.
He knew since the beginning of time what this year would look like for you and me. He knows what is coming in the new year. Trust in Him, cling to Him, and know that he will fill your heart with a new song. God bless you this Christmas. I wish you... joy.