Did you see the meme at the beginning of 2021 that read, “I’d like to cancel my subscription to 2021. I’ve experienced the free 7-day trial and I am not interested”? Unfortunately, the calendar changing doesn’t necessarily correlate to a new outlook on life or new circumstances.
When we entered 2021, the brokenness of the world continued. With that brokenness also came fear in the face of many unknowns. Why is that? Because we live in a broken world and we are broken ourselves. Both the world’s brokenness and our own doesn’t adhere to the calendar; the issues are evergreen and demand consistent work.
A change in the calendar doesn’t just magically reset everything. However, something else—something bigger—is happening as well: “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
God’s Spirit is on the move, and one of the ways He manifests Himself is in how God counters the fear that continually raises its ugly head. The Bible reassures us of God’s help as we live our lives in this imperfect world: “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18); “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6); “Peace I leave with you” (John 14:27); “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid but gives us power” (2 Timothy 1:7).
After the year that we experienced in 2020, it is not unexpected that we would enter 2021 living in places of anxiety and fear more often than not. If this is you, don’t despair! Because joy—that vibrant cheerfulness and calm delight that is rooted in God’s goodness—is a gift that God is continually offering to us if we will trustingly accept it: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you” (Psalm 5:11); “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13);
This past year, in our most honest moments, have we realized this to be true? Because of the massive change brought about by the global pandemic, our false sense of control is in a heap in the corner and our eyes have been opened to the one true reality: Jesus is the only one who knows everything, and He is in full control.
And as we make our way through what seems like another year of pain and fear, let me offer you a gift I was given years ago: “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Psalm 94:19). Not only does God desire that we find peace and contentment in Him, but it is as if He is saying, “Oh no, there is even more to the gift.”
Zephaniah 3:17 reads, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Think for a moment about this imagery. The Creator of the Universe showers us with this gift called “joy.” Have you ever lost yourself in delight as you danced with your children? Have you ever come home to a puppy who believes, without any doubt, that you are the best thing since sliced bread? If so, then you have glimpsed a bit of what God wants us to experience in our relationship with Him.
The hard truth, though, is that for many people, even Christians, joy doesn’t come easily, especially when facing so many changes to our cultural milestones today. But as we learn to accept the gift and work to make it part of our daily lives, something incredible begins to happen: the joy of the Lord becomes our strength for the days ahead (Nehemiah 8:10).
Research has shown that our brains are indeed quite malleable—they are continually being rewired and changed by every new conversation we have, every new habit we pick up, and every new event we participate in. According to leading neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman in his book Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain, we are never the same going into a conversation or activity as we are going out. We are continually changing.
This is good news for a new year!
If God is a God of joy, and if He created us in such a way that we always have the ability to change how we act, respond, and see the world, then what is stopping us from rediscovering this incredible gift of joy that God so naturally displays and so generously provides for us? We are the only thing getting in the way of taking this gift.
Where to Begin
• Ask God what it means to take the gift of joy today and commit to accepting this gift daily.
• Reflect on what joy through this lens of “calm delight” means to you.
• Do a word search for “joy” in Scripture and consider the impact of joy in each situation.
• Put it into practice! What does joy manifested look like to you? And how will you offer that gift to others as well?
Biblica is a global Bible ministry inspired by radical generosity. For more than 200 years, Biblica has helped people beyond the reach of God’s Word discover the love of Jesus Christ. Through relevant and reliable Scripture translations and resources, Biblica serves people on the margins of the Gospel – the unreached, unengaged, unseen, and unwanted. For more information please visit our website at Biblica.com
The author of this article is Karen Scalf Bouchard, a Freelance Writer at Biblica. Karen Scalf Bouchard is a frequent speaker at church, corporate and community events, and is the author of more than a dozen books including Just Hand Over the Chocolate and No One Will Get Hurt and The Chocolate Diaries: Secrets for a Sweeter Journey on the Rocky Road of Life. In print or on stage, Karen is passionate about helping people engage more fully with God’s presence, His principles, and His plan for our lives.