Reflections on joy in a term of ups and downs

With one day of work left before a Christmas break, I’ve been reflecting on where I’ve found my joy in a term and a year of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, successes and failures.

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Often, it’s been in “things going well”. In work, there have been plenty of things to be thankful for! What about for you? For me they were numerous – when three Christian Unions with lots to do and many things to think about took the time to welcome me. When a number of individuals passed from death to life by receiving Jesus for the first time. When events at all three Unis that nobody (including me) thought would go that well attracted record numbers of non-believers to hear the gospel. When church leaders were patient with me, the new boy, and generous in their support of mission. When I remember the fact that I have employers and colleagues who don’t just tolerate my faith, but take time out every day to seek to deepen my love for Jesus. When strangers became friends. When those I new a bit became dear brothers and sisters. Hundreds and hundreds of CU members who’ve been wonderful to me. Stories of people sharing Jesus with their mates through Luke’s gospel, and of those friends being drawn to him. So many joys.

And outside work, too, I have had so much to be thankful for. A beautiful, loving wife who has been patient with me in my stumbling first steps as a husband, who works tirelessly in difficult circumstances and has stuck with me. A house to live in, feeling more and more like home as Christmas cards come and we anticipate hosting our first Christmas Day! A church family and four elders who have loved us both and been gracious as we’ve sought to acclimatise to marriage and two new jobs. The friendship of numerous kind people, not least my supervisor from last year who has continued to look after me. Wider family that have wanted to be involved in our lives, and who, again, have been patient with us as we acclimatise. The delightful news of a new baby born in my family, and news of a baby neice or nephew en route next year. Much to be thankful for. And for me, it turns out, so many places to put my joy – things on which to hang my happiness.

The thing is, there’s also been difficulties, for you no doubt, and for me and those around me. Hard and heart-breaking times with one Christian Union. A month or so where I felt like a different person – quiet, subdued and teary every day. An awareness of sin and the consequences of it. Circumstances which I’ve leaned on for my joy, but in which no joy can be found.

In the wider world, the same can be said. The year has brought the excitement of the Olympics, a truly great and memorable time in our country. A time when the country felt happy, full of joy! It’s also brought the brutal and heartless murder of 20 tiny children in the States. In the last couple of days, my pastor’s dad – a faithful and much-loved Christian – tragically died, quite suddenly. One friend’s auto-immune disease continues to cause problems, another friend awaits a diagnosis. Ruth faces the daily reality of sick and dying patients on her ward. There are times where life on earth feels rather tragic, actually. Unfair. Inexpressibly sad. Depending on the circumstance, joy can flood our lives, or drain away and leave us thirsty and defeated.

And it’s on the basis of this reflection – of the astonishing highs and lows of life – that I am driven to a bit of a conclusion – a conclusion I’ve reached before and will need to reach again every day; that joy, happiness and peace are not to be found in circumstances, not even the most wonderful and delightful circumstances. Because in a week, a month, a term and a year, circumstances change more times than any of us can count.

No. Joy, happiness and peace is to be found in a person, The Person – he whose arrival was announced as an event of “great joy”, the “Prince of peace” – the baby in the manger, Jesus Christ.

He came to save me, to bring me to the Father, to join me to himself so I’d be firmly in the Father’s love – as secure in that love as Christ himself. In joys and in sorrows, with my hope in Christ, and Christ alone, I have a joy, a peace, a happiness that is eternal. My joy has a solid foundation, a rock on which to stand, an unchanging, eternal, glorious reality, outside of myself, outside of the peaks and troughs of life, fixed and certain. Somewhere that no accusation, or illness or gunman can get at it. In Christ.

In ups – I’m in Christ, filled by the Spirit, loved by the Father, drawn into the loving life of the Trinity. In downs – I’m in Christ, filled by the Spirit, loved by the Father, drawn into the loving life of the Trinity.

Every single thing can be taken from me, except Christ. Everything else can and will change, except Christ. It is there, then, in HIM, that I can find a joy that stands firm, even through tears, as tragedy hits, or injustice rages, or apathy creeps in once again. Not by being blind to the pains, but by seeing the Saviour. My Saviour. My life. My joy. Christ!

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on joy in a term of ups and downs

  1. A beautifully written blog my friend. May i add a few words…..
    I think also, for the non believer or the ‘not quite sure if I believe’er, joy can still be found in a person. Through my year of ups and downs I have realised that joy is brought to me if I choose to seek it. Through sadness there is always the potential for finding a light and whilst I know and respect that for you it is found through Christ, I think it is important to believe that I (along with many others) find joy in every single day in my own way. I think of all the horrible things life has brought to so many people this year and I have had moments of anger and rage and sadness and disappointment both for myself and others, but I choose to remember all the goodness life has also brought to myself and to others. I still can’t quite decide where my beliefs lie, but one thing I am certain of is that life is brilliant. I no longer beat myself up because ‘I don’t know’ and instead I enjoy every day that I am blessed with! It may be is bittersweet for you to read this, but I hope it will still bring happiness to you, to know that some of your nearest and dearest ARE happy albeit via a different route to the one you have chosen. Lots of love and merry Christmas my dear friend. Xxx

  2. Em, what a lovey response! Thank you for taking the time to read and engage with my rambling thoughts. Really touched that you’d comment in such a lovely and gentle way! Thank you!

    I perhaps should have made it clearer Em that I think you’re right that I really do think happiness can be found in lots of things! I entirely agree! An extensive list of some of those things is included in my thoughts above and I think happiness can definitely be found there – new born babies, the joy of sport, music, relationships with friends, Ruth (or Liam!), family, writing, thinking. Just some of the amazing things that bring me happiness and have done this very week!

    I suppose my thoughts were along the lines, though, of if they are what I hang my happiness on – Ruth, family, health, and other wonderfully good things – then one day I have to admit and face that I’ll be left without them, and therefore, joyless, empty and in a spot of bother. This is because these things are gloriously good but are sadly only temporary. Health can go like that. In fact, it will. Sadly, so can family, and so will Ruth one day. If my happiness is wrapped up in those things, then my happiness, one day, eventually, will end. A potentially grim thought, not intended that way! But a reality none the less. The good things are GOOD! But temporary.

    That’s one of the reasons why I think Christ is BETTER than those things – because even death, which will rob me of all else, won’t rob me of him. So I suppose that’s one of the reasons why I want my unbeliever friends, or, to quote, my ‘not quite sure if I believe’er friends (!!) to consider him and have a look – as he is unique placed to bare the weight of all our hopes and dreams, as even death didn’t take him away. He isn’t temporary.

    Or, I suppose another view might be that we don’t need eternal things to be happy – and that even though the lovely things of life will leave one day, that’s just life, and we don’t need to get our knickers in a twist about it, enjoy what comes our way, knowing that it is only temporary but being okay with that. I think this is what the majority of my pals and family think so I’m aware I’m in the minority here!!

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