What Fuels Real Joy
By Keith Giles
“I’ve given like a beggar but lived like the rich
And crafted myself a more comfortable cross,
Yet what I am called to is deeper than this,
It’s time You had my whole life;
You can have it all.” – Matt Redman (The Way of the Cross)
A few years ago I was introduced to a woman who had just recovered from brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Her son had asked us for a Christmas tree; they had never had a tree, let alone gifts to put under it. We set up a tree and laid gifts under it and hung up stockings (which were jam-packed with blessings). Then we sat down to pray over her. When we were done she looked up and said, “Can I pray for you?”
My heart broke forever. As this dear, humble sister in Christ lifted up our family in prayer, huge, wet, hot tears dropped into my hands. She called us each by name and gave thanks to God for these blessings.
On my way out to our car to go home I told my family, “That was my Christmas gift. I don’t want or need anything else but that.” And I decided right there and then that from now on I only wanted my Christmas to be about doing all that I could to bless others.
Really, it’s a very selfish decision on my part. I get so much out of this. I have been blessed beyond measure. I am rich in all the things that matter; my family has everything we need to survive (and a whole lot extra we don’t need, too). If you live in America, as I do, you are among the richest people on the planet.
Someone once said, “When we consider our love for others we measure how much we give. When God measures, He considers how much we hold on to.” Our joy doesn’t come from the gifts we receive—even the gifts we give. Joy comes from love—the act of giving to others, of bringing a smile to someone else’s face. Knowing that something you did, or something you gave away meant something to another human being is what fuels real joy.
For the last few years now our family has been moving away from buying gifts for one another at Christmas and focusing instead on bringing joy to others around us. We take the money we would normally spend on gifts for each other and buy gifts for children living at a local motel. Or we go caroling at a local senior home. Or we find ways to creatively bless people on our street, or to notice people who are often ignored, buying them a meal, or engaging them in friendly conversation. As each Christmas season approaches, I can’t help but feel excitement at what this year’s season will bring. It works during the rest of the year as well. Receiving gifts might make you feel happy for a moment, but real joy is something deeper and lasting, and is always about what you give away to others.
Maybe that’s why Jesus said what he said, and why Paul recalled it for us: “I commit you to God and to the word of his grace. . . . It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Keith Giles writes articles on the kingdom, simple church and discipleship to Christ over at www.KeithGiles.com