Celebrating Gifts Given: Joy In All Circumstances

By Campus Missionary Mary Rowley

I believe there is quite the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness can occur at any moment. You can be happy about your test score or job offer or Christmas present. But just as it can occur at any moment, it can also be gone the next, when you find out you have to do a group project or your job is much harder than you imagined or your Christmas present isn’t as good as someone else’s.

Joy, on the other hand, is not like that. It’s not fleeting; it can’t be brought down by day-to-day happenings. Joy has an unshakeable foundation – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We may feel down from time to time. No, scratch that; we WILL feel down from time to time. Sometimes, we’ll feel down all the time. But we will never lose hope as long as we keep our eyes on the prize.

That’s what Paul is talking about in chapter 5 of 1st Thessalonians. He says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (verses 16-18). He doesn’t say, “Rejoice when you’re happy, pray when you’re happy, give thanks when you’re happy.” He encourages us to do those things all the time, no matter what our circumstances may be. Even when it’s hard to praise, we should praise. Even when we don’t feel like praying, we should pray. Even when we can’t think of anything to thank God for, we should give thanks.

In all of our situations, we have a reason to rejoice, pray, and give thanks – God has saved us by sending his Son to our world. That’s our foundation for joy. As we head into the Christmas season, there will doubtless be some times of frustration, anger, or worry. Let’s keep our foundation in mind and experience the true joy of Christmas.