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“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I had the blessing of spending some time recently with someone near and dear to my heart. I could not help but quietly relive in my mind the sadness, pain, disappointment, and loss she had experienced over the past several years. I tried desperately to turn my thoughts off because it hurts me to think about them. It hurts me because she does not deserve this. It hurts me because I cannot fix it. It hurts me because though her troubles were in the past, they still impact her present and future in unfortunate ways.

As I sat, lost in my own thoughts, which I wished somehow could be a bad dream, I was brought back to reality as I caught a glimpse of her sweet, precious smile. This woman, scarred by the past was smiling in the midst of pain and uncertainty. I read a recent quote by Francis Chan where he said, “The Bible teaches that true joy is formed in the midst of the difficult seasons of life.” As I studied her expression intently, I realized that “difficult” was an understatement for the trials she had experienced. Yet, the result of JOY in her life was so very evident. The “why me “and “what if” had been silenced a long while ago, and because of her love for the Lord they had been replaced with not only Joy but STEADFAST JOY.

We are all seeking happiness to a degree, but happiness is simply fleeting. It is here one moment and gone the next. Happiness is dependent on our circumstances but joy my friend – it is dependent on Jesus. Happiness is accomplished when the moments of our days turn out as we had hoped for. But Joy gives us the ability to find happiness in the midst of our sufferings because we know that through each valley God is right there with us.

This joy is constant perpetual and unending. It is found in the lives of the faithful followers of Christ, and it begins with truth, belief, and surrender in His magnificent plan. Joy is not a season that ebbs and flows with the happenings of our days –instead, it is a way of life. This way of life gifts us the unbelievable ability to always be joyful regardless. The moments of our days are lived in ceaseless prayer and consistent thankfulness in every single circumstance. This joy from the Lord becomes our strength. It is what gets us out of bed on the most trying of days and it is what keeps us moving forward and not looking back.

Maybe you, like so many, are walking into this new year with heavy baggage, broken hearts, disappointment, loss, sickness, and on and on the list of possibilities go. And if we were sitting enjoying a cup of coffee together, I would hug you and tell you that I’m so very sorry for your hurt, but at the same time, I would know in my heart that maybe this is the very place where steadfast joy is formed in your heart for the first time. And for that my dear sister –I would rejoice. Because our hope cannot rest in this broken world. Hope is only found in the One who defeated the grave and made a way for us to be with Him one day.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:1-4

Our true hope and joy come alive because we believe with every ounce of our being that Jesus is preparing a place of perfection where hurt, sadness, and brokenness will be no more. But until then we must trust and believe that our obedience to His plan will offer us unwavering peace, joy, and hope. May your January be filled with steadfast joy as you rejoice, pray, and seek Him week by week, day by day, and moment by moment.

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