“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” ~ 1 Peter 6:9

As I’ve been writing these Advent devotions, it may seem that I assume the biggest struggle in your life right now is finding a parking spot at the mall or what to get your mother-in-law for Christmas. I know that this is a really painful time of year for a lot of people. You might be dealing with illness, insecurities at work, or financial pressures, that make it really hard to find the joy you’re supposed be feeling right now. And Christmas has this way of coming around every year, whether we feel like it or not.

I know because I’ve been there. Christmas of 1987 was a rough one. I was in a bad accident (see HURT ROAD) and was sick and tired of laying on the couch watching TV while it felt like the world continued to go on without me. Or Christmas of 1997, when Third Day had just finished our biggest touring year ever, only to realize we didn’t have enough money in the bank to pay ourselves. Christmas was rough in both 2000 and 2016 because I lost a family member just a couple weeks before, putting a damper on the Christmas spirit.

What are we supposed to do during times like that? Put on a happy face and soldier on, with an attitude of “Merry Christmas, anyway”?

There’s a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a feeling. It’s fun while it lasts but it never stays for good. Joy, on the other hand, is the overflow of a genuine faith. Instead of gritting our teeth and trying to be joyful, we can simply look to the source of our faith. We can look into the eyes of Jesus, knowing that he has walked the same Hurt Road as us.

If we choose to live our life from that place of faith, joy will come as a result. Sometimes it might look like happiness. Other times it might be a calm resolve. And sometimes, during those darkest moments of our lives, it might be something we don’t understand at all, as we lean on our faith, resting in the arms of a Savior who has taken on the sin of the world, and will one day take away all pain. Even this.

If joy is hard for you to find this Christmas, remember to turn your eyes upon Jesus, the source of that real faith which brings joy.