Holiday traditions vary greatly. For some the classic Norman Rockwell images echo vibrantly – classic Christmas music, children giggling with glee, family members reunited, irresistible smells of family recipes once again brought to life, and sweet church services returning our attention to the Greatest of All Gifts. For others, though, neighbors’ holiday cheer magnifies the emptiness, and it is a moment-by-moment struggle to make it through the season.
During this most recent holiday season I found myself pondering the spectrum of joy and hurt – the joy and the hopelessness amidst the enemy’s growing assault on our well-being.
In the a fallen world our sustained joy is imperative if we are to fulfill our callings. Our adversary understands that too – and will strive to keep us spiritually and emotionally broken.
We must regard our joy as a strategic imperative – call it ‘strategic joy,’ if you will. Here are a few thoughts.
Dedicate yourself to being joyful! This is easier said than done. The perils and trials in this season can be overwhelming – and I’m convinced that’s by design. Also, worry can be a highly ingrained habit.
Focus, habit, and will all play powerful roles in demanding you have joy in your daily walk – consciously combatting a destructive, disempowering addiction to depression, or resigning yourself to be the Eeyore of your own storyline.
When you’ve had enough of being in agreement with despair, dedicate yourself to refusing to go on with the charade of self-affliction and choose to form a new habit – an ‘empowering addiction,’ if you will. Decide to live in joy, energy, and dauntlessness, as you dedicate yourself daily to victory. “Set your face like flint (Isaiah 15)” and resolve to be joyful – seeing the good, the lovely, and the positive in each day (Philippians 4:8)! Pray for it! Demand it! Contend for your joy, because the enemy certainly is.
Get back to basics. Most of my fondest 2022 memories were the ‘little things.’ So, lay down the social media. Put away the tablet. Stop chasing the next vacuous clothing or hardware purchase, and double down on simple joys. Get back to nature; go for a walk or hike. Have dinner as a family or with friends. Host a neighborhood get-together. Play board, card, or parlor games together, or strike up a session of basketball, football or frisbee.
Mock the devil with your carefree, defiant dedication to simple joys!
Live a little. The enemy would have us play ‘small ball’ – getting bogged down in jobs, kids, bills, chores, such that we never take time to really live. In 2023 have more ‘big’ fun. Go to a couple of concerts and ball games; attend a conference and fellowship with your brethren. Shoot some clays and paper targets, and perhaps even some dinner on the wing. Put beaches and family in other towns on your calendar, and fix a few special dinners together.
‘Think big’ and make plans to truly live while you’re living. Be defiantly bold in pursuing the joy of life this season. Even the Good Lord took a break after a hard week’s work (Genesis 2)!
Purge addictions. I chewed Skoal for 35 years. But since I gave it up for good, after about 7000 pounds of tobacco chewed, I’ve enjoyed a long season of addiction-free life that greatly outshines what I had before. Even my children attest to how different a father I’ve been.
Addiction is a spiritual warfare – simply one more trap to hobble us. It’s time to put your boot on the neck of that demon (Joshua 10). Break it off now; pray for the Lord not just to strengthen you, but to carry the burden for you – “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22).” Ask Him to remove all desire; when you slip, simply reiterate the request, and thank Him for the work He’s working in you as you leave captivity in His strength. After all, “He who the Son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36)!”
Reject all spirits of affliction (including generational). Spiritual oppression often originates from destructive family dynamics, including generational sin and curses (Deuteronomy 5:9). Wielding your authority as a blood-bought believer; praying repentance and Jesus’ blood covering over all ancestors’ transgressions; praying for discernment and revealing of any and all manifestations of curses in your and your family’s present life; and purging yourself and your loved ones of all generational afflictions is a bridge you can cross, from trouble and affliction to a new season of liberty. Begin that process today.
Share the joy. Jesus called us to be salt (Matthew 5:13-16) and light (John 8:12 in a dark, flavorless, rotting world. Are you answering that call?
Be busy spreading that light, and being that salt! Share your joy with strangers, friends and family. Out to lunch? Ask your waitress how you might pray for her – then do it for her right then as she listens! Pay for the meal of the car behind you in the drive-through. Be quick to ask for forgiveness, and even quicker in giving it. Be as playful and adoring to your spouse as you once were, and see what happens!
The good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) went far above and beyond as an astounding, unexpected blessing for the poor soul he blessed. How might you echo his efforts? Don’t let such opportunities pass you by! Jesus Himself said, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:35-40).”
The hour is shockingly short. Don’t be caught sleeping. Be strategic and have an urgency about your joy. Be a force for righteousness and restoration – then watch expectantly as God moves in concert with your efforts!
Nehemiah 8:10 – “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
© 2022 by John Dyslin; all rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of author, John Dyslin, onto Liberty Sentinel.org.