on Joy

Many years ago I was sitting in an airport in Phoenix (long before the TSA was a twinkle in tyranny’s eye) contemplating how crappy my day had just been. Instead of being excited for a long awaited trip to visit friends in Denver, I was sore, angry and frustrated. Sore because I had gotten into an accident earlier that morning where a driver ran a red light and hit me, angry that while my car was still drivable, the driver had no insurance, and frustrated that everything that could go wrong at work that day, surely did. And then, to top everything off, when I got to the airport and rushed to my gate, I found out that my flight was delayed several hours.

As I sat in my seat and contemplated why a day that began with excitement seemed now overcome with a blackened cloud, an elderly lady sat down next to me and struck up a casual conversation. After first listening to my tale of woe, she quietly shared her day. She was on her way to a Christian conference in Texas. Her initial flight was delayed in California so she ended up missing her connecting flight out of Phoenix at 7:45 am. Since it was now after 6 pm I asked why they were unable to find her a flight to Texas when so many left out of that airport. She smiled, and said that the “poor dears” were trying, but every time they got one there ended up being a problem. So here she sat. In a strange airport. By herself. For over 10 hours.

I then asked a question. How was it, after all this time, she maintained such a pleasant attitude? Why wasn’t she angry or bitter? She smiled again, and said that she believed that God always had a purpose for what He allowed to happen, and that it took her many years to realize that sometimes life’s interruptions were merely God trying to get our attention. So, now she was just waiting to find out why He had her sitting in an airport in Phoenix. Patience, she said, was something she had learned long ago, as sometimes His people take a while to coordinate.

It was then that I shared with her that I was a new Christian, and how frustrated I was with the unfairness of it all, especially given my crappy day. Instead of trying to explain anything to me, she simply asked if I had any joy in my life since I found Christ. I said yes, but that it was hard thing to hold on to. She then said something profound: “Honey, don’t ever let the enemy (Satan) steal your joy, because if he does, he will take everything else along with it. Bad things will always happen, because we live in a broken world. But it is with Christ alone that we find our joy; it isn’t in our circumstances.” As I tried to blink back tears, any words of response proved elusive. Just then, a voice came over the airport PA that announced a flight leaving for Texas. The elderly lady smiled at me again, patted my hand, and then said “Well, it looks like my flight is finally leaving. I guess I now know why God needed me to wait in Phoenix. It was to speak to you.” And with that she hugged me, got up, walked to her gate, and disappeared into the crowd. I never even got her name.

Christmas is a time when we remember the birth of Jesus, where God interrupted the lives of a young couple in order to bring joy and salvation into the world. Mary and Joseph willingly put aside their own plans in order to be part of the fulfillment of God’s plan, one that they could not yet fully see but still trusted Him for the results. For “God so loved” did not just begin at Bethlehem, or end at Calvary, or ultimately was fulfilled at the empty tomb. It is still ever present today, in the joy that knowing Him brings to our hearts, despite our circumstances. That day at the airport I learned how important it was to understand that happiness and joy are not the same thing. I also learned that God loves abundantly, so much so that He will interrupt the day of one of His more mature children in order to just encourage the walk of a younger one. I also learned that while Satan can steal happiness, he can only steal our joy if we let him.

Christmas interrupted Satan’s plan for the world because it brought us the true source of joy: Jesus. May it also gently interrupt your plans, remind you how much you are loved, and that He too can be the source of your joy if you let Him. Have a blessed, merry and joyous Christmas!

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