Did 2020 leave us any space for joy? It feels a miracle we’ve survived it at all – will we be able to leave 2020 carrying joy? 

Truthfully, I spent most of this year feeling completely overwhelmed. March feels like yesterday and ten years ago all in one. Navigating COVID and relationships has been stressful. I’ve seen friends cancel graduations, birthday parties, vacations, baby showers, weddings. I’ve stayed up late tracking along with the news, my face lit by a screen in a dark room showing COVID numbers, electoral college votes, videos of protests, retirement funds steadily shrinking. 

I consider myself a happy person – I love to have fun. But happiness is simply a facade, a fragile gold foil – the vacations planned on a calendar, birthday gifts and wedding showers and fun things planned on the weekends. 

Friends, 2020 stripped away so much of what makes me happy. It’s left me to realign myself with what brings me joy. 

I’ve heard joy defined not as a lack of suffering but instead as suffering + God. I personally have found no joy in the suffering for suffering’s sake, no secret code to making suffering mean something. Without God, suffering is simply pain, heartache, sadness. 

But with God? 

I’ve found quiet moments of joy even in the pain of this year. Long walks through a shady park thinking about the beauty of God’s creation. The tiny fingers of my sister’s newborn baby wrapping around my finger as he sleeps on my chest. Sitting across from a friend on a blanket in the grass – always outside, in 2020 – sharpening each other with encouragement. 

Where do you find yourself as 2020 comes to a close? Does the joy of the birth of Jesus feel rich and alive? Or flat and irrelevant? 

I find myself reflecting, not on the joy of the newborn Jesus, but on the joy of his death and resurrection. The joy of the empty tomb, of my life redeemed and my relationship with God reconciled. 

I find myself contemplating that without the gruesome, heart wrenching, pain of the crucifixion, there is no joy of the empty tomb. 

I can’t pretend to know the suffering you’ve experienced this year. I can’t pretend to know the suffering of those who have lost loved ones, who have grieved, who have had their heart broken, who have lost things they can’t get back. Maybe you feel like there isn’t space for joy. Who am I to instruct you otherwise? 

But I can tell you what I know has been true for me. I don’t feel like I have space for all the feelings this year has brought. I’ve been brought low to my knees and soared high with happy moments. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the rollercoaster of emotions this year has taken me on. 

Even in this, God has space for all the feelings I’ve brought to him this year. So even in a year that feels terrible, I’m allowed, even capable of, feeling joy.

And so I endure. I wake up every morning and attempt to “consider it all joy” when I encounter trials. I ask God to help me endure in ways that are impossible for me to do so on my own

My prayer is that you, too, find space for joy in this season. 


Verses for Contemplation

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
—Psalm 90:14

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
—James 1:2-4


Prayer 

God, we can’t do this without you. We want to be joyful in all circumstances but it isn’t easy. Can you fill me with joy today? Can you open my eyes to see the quiet moments of joy that sometimes pass me by? God, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the joy of my salvation. As I celebrate this holiday season and the birth of Jesus, please help me rediscover my joy. Please help me endure and persevere even though I feel like giving up.