Having two kids that are starting to understand Christmas is a new and fun experience. It turns out that kids really do have a unique perspective on the world. For our kids, their joy is easily observed during car rides at dusk, and it revolves around a newer phenomenon: giant lawn inflatables. Snowmen, Santa, Mickey Mouse, it honestly doesn’t matter. If they catch a glimpse of a staked-down, wind-prone lawn decoration, they are ecstatic. But we drive past, and the inflatable goes out of sight and the next plea is always “more snowman, more Mickey”. The joy of that experience is temporary and fleeting, and it leaves the kids wanting more.
CS Lewis distinguishes pleasure from true joy by defining the latter as an unsatisfied desire or longing for God. He writes “the fact that anyone who has experienced [joy] will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.” Like my children longing for another glimpse of a blown over giant snowman during an evening drive, our hearts long for true joy. Many of us have, as Lewis wrote, experienced joy and want it again. Whether our longing is for the next life stage, a career, or the next Amazon purchase, we know all too well that true and lasting joy isn’t found in the temporal things of this world. There are not enough Amazon deliveries in the world that could satisfy our longings.
So, if joy is not just getting all the things or experiences you want, then what is it? Psalm 16:11 paints a beautiful picture for us of what joy is and where we find it:
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Joy is the satisfaction and contentment that transcends our circumstances because the focus of our joy is not an object, but a person. We find true joy – fullness of joy even! – and satisfaction in God alone through Christ. And we experience that joy in God’s presence, that is, in spending time with Him and knowing him. My prayer this season for my family and yours is that every heart prepare him room (as the famous hymn goes) so that Jesus Christ would permeate our thoughts and words and deeds to reorient our focus from the ‘seasonal inflatables’ of the world to the gift of Christ entering our world to bring us back to God.