Has anyone ever stolen your joy? This past week in the United States—more specifically Southern California—a couple of people tried to steal and obliterate the collective joy of a city, of a state, of a nation, and maybe, of the world. They also tried to steal the personal joy of wives, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, fiancées, lovers, friends and co-workers. Were they successful? If one survivor’s words are a measure of their success, then I think they failed miserably.
The daughter of one of the victims held a sign that was photographed and witnessed on news services across the nation. It read: Do not let the actions of others rob you of your joy.
Standing next to her father, the young woman spoke eloquently about the positive life her mother led, her servant’s heart and joyful attitude, and how she, herself—to honor her mother—planned to continue living that kind of life. The story became even more poignant when we learned that her mother had come to the United States in order to escape religious extremism in her native Iran. While I am sure her daughter is grieving deeply, she seems determined to not allow this unconscionable act of violence that has invaded and violated her heart and home from stealing her joy. The joy that must surely reside deeply within her soul.
The widow of another victim—a Messianic Jew who evidently loved lively discussions and debates about all things religious—said she would also be sustained by his memory and the way he lived life.
Clearly, these two grievers are not grieving without hope.
When events like this occur, they force us to honestly examine our internal worldview. How we observe, process and analyze the world’s events. What we believe about people in general and believe about ourselves in specifics. Most importantly, what we believe about God.
Do these events completely surprise you or rock your world and worldview? Or do they serve to bolster your faith and resolve to stand firm to not let evil invade your heart and steal your joy, even though it may bring you to your knees?
My pastor, Dr. Mark Lansberry had something to say about this last week, in reference to Advent, and before the tragic events in San Bernardino.
“There is greater reality than our shadows. [Jesus] lives within us in the form and power of the Holy Spirit. Our reality is Christ, and Him coming again. The Son of Man has come, is coming, and will come again.
“Take note of the gathering shadows. He is right at the door. Christ comes to dispel shadows. Our hope is in Christ, and Christ doesn’t disappoint.”
“Advent is about God who comes to us in our shadows. Look out the windows of life for Christ to come. We are to be alert, keep on watch. Stay awake!”
Pastor Mark compared it to the attitude of joy a child has when watching through the windows and waiting for his mom or dad to return home. He’s watching and waiting, waiting and watching. Expectantly; with hope and a joyful heart that his expectant heart will soon be satisfied.
In these last days, we live in a multitude of shadows. Our own shadows dog us, and we watch hideous, frightful shadows materialize all around the world.
Through it all, we who possess Hope, Truth and Life watch and wait, wait and watch, with an attitude of joy that—if we stand firm—cannot and will not be stolen from us, even though another person attempts to rip it from our hearts and souls.
This Advent we celebrate both the original birth of Joy, the existence of Joy in our own hearts, and the future return of Joy to Earth.
Joy has come, is coming, and will come again!
Jesus—Joy itself—had something to say about tribulation. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Or as it reads so bluntly in The Message: “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
This Advent season, make yourself a vessel of joy, and let that joy spill out onto others. Search for joy; latch onto it when you find it. Claim it as your own. Nurture and cherish it. Display it in the face of evil. And watch and wait for it to come again.
Next week we’ll return to a more light-hearted look at joy.
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34580986@N03/4210355896">(j)oy to the world</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">(license)</a>