The theme for the third Sunday of Advent is joy but I’m struggling to find something joyful to write about. I’ll be honest; I don’t feel a lot of joy right now. It’s just one of those times. The senseless murder of innocent children and adults in Connecticut this past Friday hasn’t helped matters. Neither have some problems at work. I know it’s supposedly “the most wonderful time of the year” but there’s a lot about Christmas that also brings me sadness. I miss loved ones who are no longer here especially at Christmas. Many of the songs I hear played dampen my spirits rather than lift them. We may have lit a pink candle at church today to represent joy but I find myself wondering right now, “Where is the joy?”
I raise that question periodically but deep down I always know the answer. My primary joy always has been, and always will be, found in my relationship with God. When I am sad and blue I rarely doubt God’s existence or His love for me. I just don’t sense His presence or feel His love at such times. And it is in such times that I have to hold on to my faith and realize that “this, too, will pass.” It is also helpful to remember that what I’m going through is a very common experience for believers. You cannot be joyful (or full of joy) all of the time. Sad times are a part of life. An honest reading of the Scriptures will reveal that most of our biblical heroes also struggled with sadness and a lack of joy at times. If anyone tells you that you must be joyful at all times I’d suggest you tell them to “get real.” My own experience, as well as my observation of others, reveals that feelings of sadness are inevitable.
My experience and observations also reveal that these feelings of sadness do not last forever. They do, in fact, pass. In Psalm 30 the writer declares “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (v.5) The wise author of Ecclesiastes wrote “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.” (3:1) A few verses later he added that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Joy and sadness are cycles that come to each of our lives. Such cycles are reflected throughout nature. As the Psalmist indicated, sunrise eventually follows sunset. The tide rolls out but it always rolls back in. Winter comes each year but invariably spring follows. The moon in the sky goes through its phases and so do we.
When I am sad both of God’s Books—Scripture and Creation—offer me encouragement to hang in there. Both Books give me hope of better days to come. Both Books remind me that the Creator is still in control and that joy will, in fact, return in time. On this Third Sunday of Advent I am grateful for their faithful testimony. In them I find reason to believe that “comfort and joy” will sooner or later be mine once again.
(I took the top image at Coyote Buttes in Arizona and the bottom two images at Big Bend National Park in Texas.)