Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. - Philippians 4:4
This evening (Dec 19), we will hold our annual Blue Christmas service at 7pm. The holidays can be a stressful time, but for many people they can also be quite painful. Perhaps someone you love is no longer around. Or perhaps your health is failing. Perhaps you don’t have a place to live, or money to get anyone gifts or you’re hungry. Suffering does not match the ho, ho, ho atmosphere of the holidays. Sometimes it’s hard to be merry.
Yet, Paul commends us, as faithful people, to rejoice always. Could this mean that if we’re sad or grieving or worried or discouraged that we are not being faithful?
I think that there is a difference between what we think of as merriment and true joy. Joy is a much deeper thing than happiness. And you can tap into God’s joy even when, at the same time, you are not happy. Sometimes joy is wistful, or can even make you cry. Our faith is a both/and thing rather than an either/or one. Suffering and joy can be felt at the same time, and are really not far from each other at times.
To me, there is no such thing as your pain or my pain, but just THE pain - in which each of us participates in our own unique ways in this life. There’s no avoiding the pain - we’re all going to tap into it at some point. The same is true for joy. There is a joy that is much deeper than your joy or my joy - it is simply THE joy, that we can access no matter how our individual lives are going.
One of the greatest gifts of faith is becoming aware that joy is always there - as a consolation, as a comfort, as a peace that passes all understanding - even when you’re sad or grieving or worried or discouraged. Wishing you many blessings and unexpected joys in these last few days of Advent.