December 4, 2020
When Joy is Hard to Find – Enter Hope
By Eric McCombs
As many of us know, the third week of Advent highlights the spirit of joy that Christ brings into the world. Joy can surround us; it can wrap us up and hold us tight like a warm blanket. Joy can be found in the smallest aspects of life and fulfill us beyond our imagination; but so can tragedy, and sorrow. During the pandemic and this election year, depression has risen, loneliness has spread, sickness has ramped, relationships torn, hearts shattered, and the worst of people’s character has surfaced. Unfortunately, this time of year is when frustrations are magnified, and despair turns routine. Yet, in the midst of trouble there is always a hope for joy. You know it is out there though it may seem hard to find. If joy is what you desire, then you must embrace hope. If hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs
13:12), then hope is the key to making it whole. When we focus our eyes on God’s character instead of our personal circumstances, He becomes the refuge in the storm of life. We have hope because we have God. And joy is the heart’s response to hope (Proverbs 10:28). Though we may not be able to control our circumstances, God can. We
might not have a say in the length of our life, but He does. If our hearts are still beating, then God still has a good plan for us. And sometimes just that simple reminder, that God holds us in the palm of his hand, can slowly deliver hope and ultimately bring us joy!
Sometimes, to experience joy, we must endure hardship, and perhaps for many that’s the pandemic. Joy, like all fruit of the Spirit, grows in the soil of suffering. When we encounter problems and tribulations, God uses them to produce faith, build perseverance, strength, and character within us (Romans 5:3-4). We can in fact joyfully embrace hardship because it’s an opportunity for the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our life and spread for others.
Instead of focusing on what we are losing or the pain, we may feel, let us be grateful for the blessings we are enjoying. We still have this church, St. John’s. We have family that loves us, friends who make us laugh, and most
have an abundance of gifts that only God can provide. Most importantly we have an amazing God who loves us and promises to give us hope; and because of that, it should bring us joy. The season of Advent is indeed a time of joy, and so I leave you a hymn that brings infinite joy to my heart… “Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies; with th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!