My Word of the Year is JOY! I’ve been looking at this word several times in the past and now it is here. Not that life is suddenly filled with great joy, as though everything has finally come together for me. It hasn’t, and I don’t think it ever does in this life. Sometimes I get discouraged, though, thinking that joy is unattainable and hopeless. But that’s only when I’m confusing “joy” with “happiness.” I heard long ago that “happiness depends on happenings,” and that’s why it comes and goes. Frederick Buechner said:
Happiness comes when things are going our way, which makes it only a forerunner to the unhappiness that inevitably follows when things stop going our way…Joy, on the other hand, does not come because something is happening or not happening, but every once in a while rises up out of simply being alive, or being a part of the…fathomless richness of the world that God has made. —Secrets in the Dark, pg. 241
For example, your team wins the championship one year and you’re ecstatic, but the next year you’re vowing never to watch them play again. Some people base their happiness/depression on political parties or on the stock market. Joy, on the other hand, is based on God’s presence and promises and doesn’t have to come and go; it’s always available, even beneath the momentary (or even long-lasting) sadness or disappointment.
I read something interesting last week:
The very word parable comes from two Greek words. Para- is a prefix that refers to something alongside something else. For instance, paralegals work alongside lawyers as helpers. And ballo means “to throw or to hurt.” So parable means something that is thrown alongside of something else. In order to illustrate a truth He is teaching, Jesus throws a parable alongside of it. — R. C. Sproul, What Do Jesus’ Parables Mean?, pg. 7
Last year’s Word, “Cast“, is being beautifully explained here (ballo: to throw, hurl or cast). Perhaps we should think of Joy has something the Lord casts alongside us in every situation–a reminder that He’s still on the throne, that no matter the pain or sadness, eternal truths and promises prevail. You face death but He casts alongside you a reminder of eternal life. You feel lonelier than ever before and He casts alongside the surety of His constant presence. Your team loses and He casts alongside the evidence of what is really lasting, and matters more. Joy! This year I’m watching for the JOY that God casts alongside my path in all situations. By the way, when He casts that Joy, it spills out ahead of us, revealing a sure and solid hope for the future.
…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:2