Weekday Devotionals

“Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God.”

Christmas can be a bright, festive, and happy time. Or it cannot. For some, everything is falling into place. “The family is healthy, job is secure, money is good. God has surely blessed me.” But, for others, it may be a different story. “My loved one is dying. My marriage is falling apart. I have no job. How am I going to feed my family? God has abandoned me.” This can feel like the season of light and great peace, or it can feel like the season of darkness and chaos. As humans we tend to want things in ‘black and white,’ but what I am noticing over time in my faith walk is, often life does not operate in ‘black and white’. There is a lot of grey area. This can cause feelings of anxiety and confusion because we don’t have concrete answers to our questions. And even more challenging to understand is why God does not always immediately bring peace to the chaos. So, the question we ask ourselves is, how do we have joy in a season that we feel obligated to have joy in, when we are not feeling very joyful? Where do we find joy when it feels like it’s nowhere to be found?
When I read of the birth of Jesus, I see light and peace, but I also see darkness and chaos. An angel comes to Mary to tell her she will conceive and give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High! But simultaneously, a very young Mary and Jospeh face judgement from others by being pregnant without yet being married. A Savior, the one true King has come to set us free! However, He is not born in a palace. Rather, there is no guest room available for them at the inn, and once He is born He is placed in a manger which is typically used for animals to eat from. Mary and Joseph were experiencing both hope and joy, while also experiencing darkness and chaos. So, it makes me wonder, is it okay with God for us to experience both joy and grief at Christmas time? History reveals to me, yes. God is okay with it, and I believe he prefers it. What He desires most from us is an authentic relationship. How can we have that if we hide from Him and show only what we think He wants to see? We will not experience a happy Christmas if we deny our unhappy emotions and pretend everything is fine. The peace, joy, and blessings of Christmas come to us through trusting God and rejoicing in His goodness to us—even as we navigate grief, conflict, and stress.
“Joy is made complete when we seek the joy of the LORD.” Go to Him with everything. Every question, every worry, every thought, every emotion. You will never be ‘too much’ for Him. Find joy in His presence.
“Joy is made complete when we seek the joy of others.” Care for the people God brings to your mind. It is not random. Text them to see how they are doing. Better yet, call them up. Donate money or your time to those in need. Invite the loner to Christmas dinner.
“Joy is made complete when we can navigate the temporary from the eternal.” It’s too easy to become distracted by the “things” of this season. Be a rebel and choose to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas. He is the Light of the World and He has overcome! We can have joy by understanding what Jesus has already done for us. Merry Christmas everyone!

-Raquel Simmons




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