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true joy

I smiled to myself when I opened my HOPE book last week and realized the topic was joy.  It was just what I needed to read because I definitely am not feeling very “joyful” this Christmas–at least not in the way the world would define joy.

“The truth is, it is possible to be filled with joy and still not be described as “happy.” Sometimes we’re just plain sad, not only down in our hearts, but down to our toes…

…The Bible says, “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NASB).  As we savor the joy we have in Christ, we feel the healing power of that medicine.  In fact, our joy should be as consistent as God is.  It doesn’t have to be tied to the turbulent conditions of our feelings and moods.  Our joy is grounded in God.  It flows from him and back to him.  Joy is not something we can generate with positive thinking or a bit of humor.  It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our inner lives.  Joy shines forth from the life of the true believer, no matter how dark the circumstances.  Joy in God deserves our constant, courageous pursuit.” -Nancy Guthrie

How reassuring is it to know that our joy isn’t tied to the sometimes turbulent conditions around us?

It isn’t tied to how sad I am feeling as we prepare to celebrate this first Christmas without Cora. It isn’t tied to how my heart hurts when I see all these happy Christmas cards and realize again that there will be no family pictures with Cora this year. It isn’t tied to how sad I am that Cora won’t be here to welcome her new brother or sister with us. It isn’t even tied to how much love we will feel when we meet Baby Mac any day now. True joy does not necessarily equal happiness.

My joy is grounded in Christ.
And I can experience deep joy, even in the midst of sorrow,
because my hope is in Christ.
That doesn’t mean we won’t have any tears or sadness.
But, I pray that this true joy is what others see shining from my life and family,
even during this first Christmas without Cora.

Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again–rejoice!  Philippians 4:4
  • jen christians - I do see you and see joy amidst the utter sadness and ache, I see joy in your relationship with Christ. Thanks for sharing this today, it is what I needed to hear too. It makes the silly holiday “stress” I feel seem so absolutely ridiculous…instead I must focus on the true JOY of this season. God bless you as you prepare to meet your blessing, anyday now…can’t wait to hear your news…ReplyCancel

  • oh, the places you'll go... - hi Jess. i’m thinking about you guys so so much and will pray extra for you and joel and little baby mac. love you!ReplyCancel

  • Aja - Wow. Thank you for sharing that.. it’s so true. We can be joyful, even in the midst of pain and sadness.. How lucky are we?

    I am praying for you and Baby Mac! Merry Christmas!ReplyCancel

  • mommaof4wife2r - ahhhhh….so true! just finished my beth moore study last week on joy and i couldn’t agree more. many prayers for you all remain.ReplyCancel

  • Jill - i continue to pray for you!ReplyCancel

  • Trisha Larson - Jess-

    Phil 4:4 is the verse that God has given me OVER and OVER again since Nate died. I’ve worked so hard on it. Finding JOY is hard admist the heartache of burying a child. But I believe that the JOY from the Lord is the ONLY way that any of us can move forward through our pain.


  • Krystal - I’ve followed your blog for awhile now and prayed for you and your family often.

    Thank you for these words…they are perfect! And great to hear!

    Merry Christmas!

    From TexasReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - I think that is one of the things about you that keep drawing me back day after day 🙂
    I continue to think of you daily. Looking so forward to baby Mac coming into this world..What wonderful parents he/she will have!


  • Heather at All A Flutter - It’s so true, and so many don’t understand, that we can experience true joy while in the midst of painful sorrow. Know you are in the company of many and we understand!!

    Wishing you a Merry, merry Christmas!ReplyCancel

  • Erica - well jess, i think your prayer is already answered because you show so much joy and are such an encouragement, even in the darkest of times. have a very merry & blessed Christmas.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Kelly - Just beautfiful, and pray during the midst of this Christmas and in the midst of grief that you can celebrate in the hope of Jesus and the blessings that surround you!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - I just recently discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading your story. Such a great post. I’ve been thinking a lot about this too with this being our first of many Christmases without our Andrew. I’ve also been going through Nancy Guthrie’s book and it’s been such an encouragement. Merry Christmas to you and your family! Praise the Lord that true joy can be found in the midst of difficult circumstances!ReplyCancel

  • Andy and Cari - it’s true. last year was the first christmas we celebrated with an aching heart…caden, our daughter, died 3 months earlier…we never has a christmas with her…it would have been her first. but it was a great christmas. because God is bigger then my hurt..he comforted us and gave us peace…and joy.ReplyCancel

  • PamperingBeki - This is exactly what you show – Joy and Hope through the pain.

    You’re incredible.
    God bless you!!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa Joy - I just wanted to say how thankful I am for you. You don’t know me. But I know and pray for your family. And you have truly blessed me. We have lost four small babies, and your blog has helped me through some of my darkest days. And I recently began the Hope book, on your suggestion. Thank you for sharing that blessing with me!
    In this season, I have struggled with the joy versus happiness idea. People make me feel guilty for not being happy. But I keep reminding them that I *am* joyful, and that is what matters. I am going to skip ahead in the Hope book to find that portion and share it around.
    Thank you for being a conduit of grace, for sharing your home and family, and for encouraging other aching mommies even in your own pain.
    I look forward to rejoicing with you over Baby Mac, and pray for you this week as you celebrate the Savior and endure your void.
    With love in Christ!ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Krissy Hunecke
    Batavia, ILReplyCancel

  • The Bohrer's - Jess – reading this post made me think about something. About a year ago, I think, I learned that the Biblical definition for joy is “calmly well off”. When we are calmly well off in Christ, the result is joy. This kind of joy is impossible in our own power, but with God’s amazing power, it IS possible. The cool thing is that when others see this kind of joy in you, they see GOD! Praise God that others see HIM in you!ReplyCancel

  • Christina - You are so encouraging…it is amazing what you are able to do, but maybe it shouldn’t be…since it is through and by Him that you are able to do it. Thank you for sharing all that you do. Merry Christmas.ReplyCancel

  • Abby - Wow…You are such a beacon of hope and inspiration. In Thessalonians Paul said that he was delighted to share not only the gospel of Christ with the people there but his life also, and it was his life that really defined what kind of a minister he was. Every time I read your blog I am overwhelmed with your courage to be real despite pain and to be open regardless of how much it may hurt; you are the epitome of what I think of when I try to define “disciple”.

    Thank you for letting your light shine, for being real and for being relateable, because in doing so you have encouraged me, and I’m sure countless others, in my relationship with the Lord!

    Merry Christmas and I am praying for a speedy and comfortable delivery for you as well as peace that passes all understanding!


  • katherine - I don’t fully understand how joy and happiness can exist separately, but I have also found comfort that they can. This is the second year in a row my family is facing news of cancer in one we love, but our joy at Christmas doesn’t come from circumstances. Praise God.

    Praying for peace for you. I enjoy checking your blog although we’ve never met b/c I do see that joy and peace in you through your posts.ReplyCancel

  • Mandi @ It's come to this - It’s so true!! Merry Christmas to you & Joel … may you continued to be blessed with true JOY!ReplyCancel

  • Townsend Crew - What an amazing post! It is simply amazing to SEE your faith… actually SEE and FEEL what true faith is like… to SEE the work you continue to do on this journey of grief and hope and healing. Your faith continues to amaze and inspire me. YOU are a piece of JOY to me… the way you demonstrate your love for God… not only in the JOYOUS times, but in these deep, hard, days of work and recovery. Thank you for your many gifts you share with me.ReplyCancel

  • Melinda - Thank you for such a beautiful post. You and Joel are in my thoughts and prayers often.ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - such solid words…i needed to hear them!!!Holidays are hard after parting with our loved ones..i never knew how hard before.. I just wanted u to know i LOVE your blog and am inspired by you. Also love the Cora items i purchased. Merry Christmas and God bless u and your family. Can’t wait to hear about and see baby Mac! May God grant strength for each moment! LenaReplyCancel

  • Lisa - Wow Jess! It seems so many of us needed to hear this same message. My heart aches for you today, and I have thought of you many times during this holiday season. My youngest daughter has fought a tough battle against brain tumors and the seizures they have caused, autism, and developmental delays for the past four years. Sometimes it is hard to remain “joyful” when the sadness is just below the surface. It was so good to be reminded that true joy is in knowing that we have an ever loving God who knows our every need and meets us exactly where we are at. Thank you.

    Wishing you a peace in your heart this Christmas!

    God bless you! Merry Christmas!ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Jess…I wasn’t even going to get on the computer today. But I felt a promting to do so. I immediately went to your blog, and read this post. It was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you so much. God directed me here today, and your words were a balm to me. Even in sorrow God uses us, and he is using you in a mighty way.

    Thank you so much for all of the sharing you do. You are an inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • Carpenter's - I purchased this book as soon as I saw it on your blog and it is very inspiring. Thank you for encouraging me to keep my head up in the scariest of times and have JOY!ReplyCancel

  • The Schilling's from Cimarron - Jess,

    As I read your blog today, I cried….. I am praying so hard for you both right now I know this is a very hard time for you with Christmas coming without Cora. It still seems like we just met you yesterday and were all together! We miss you and love you so much! Please know we are thinking of you everyday! We pray for you conitued healing and happiness during the holiday!

    Love you!


  • Cassie - What a beautiful, inspiring post. Thanks for sharing this. You and your family are an inspiration– have a beautiful Christmas.ReplyCancel

  • Momma H - You were so on my mind yesterday, I thought maybe Baby Mac had decided to be born. Anyway, you were prayed for especially constantly the other day, for whatever was happening.
    God bless and keep you and Joel!ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Guthrie - I’ve been thinking about joy today too—especially about my favorite line in “Joy to the World” because it reveals the real reason we can have joy living in the broken world:

    “He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”

    It is the curse that causes cancer in a sweet, beautiful baby. it is the curse that brings death. And the best reason to celebrate at Christmas is that Jesus has come to break the curse.

    Of course, that won’t happen at his birth. That will require his death. But indeed it will be done.

    Merry Christmas, sweet JessReplyCancel

  • Nancy Guthrie - I’ve been thinking about joy today too—especially about my favorite line in “Joy to the World” because it reveals the real reason we can have joy living in the broken world:

    “He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”

    It is the curse that causes cancer in a sweet, beautiful baby. it is the curse that brings death. And the best reason to celebrate at Christmas is that Jesus has come to break the curse.

    Of course, that won’t happen at his birth. That will require his death. But indeed it will be done.

    Merry Christmas, sweet JessReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - MERRY CHRISTMAS Joel, Jess, Cora and Baby Mac! I have thought and prayed for all of you every single day this year. You have been a true inspiration to me.ReplyCancel

  • Stef - Jess, I found your website through one of my friend’s websites 🙂
    I’ve been sitting here reading about your lives, since your very first post. I’ve grabbed the box of tissue and I’m having some laughs and many cries as I walk through your “blog” journey. My goodness. I don’t know where to begin. Nothing I say is going to be something you’ve not heard already, so I just want to say thank you. I want to thank you for sharing your joy in Jesus. For showing us what it is to be a true follower of Christ; to bear the heavy burdens and to undertake these amazingly difficult trials and deep valleys of sorrow, with ALL joy, knowing God is in control and has real, everlasting purpose for ALL He does. Your blog has reminding me that in ALL things, God truly is good. He is righteous and holy and can turn what might think is only bad, into something wonderful and good – using it for the furtherance of His Kingdom. I’m excited to see how He’s used Cora’s life! I’m sitting here amazed at how many lives your story has reached and touched. God has used Cora in more ways than He’s used me and I’m going on 30 years old! 🙂
    Your relationship with Christ, your love for your husband and your memory and love for your sweet Cora and excitement over Baby Mac is pure sweetness. It is infectious.

    I will pray for you tomorrow (Christmas Day). I will pray that God will bless you with joy that is unspeakable. That when you have memories of last Christmas, you will remember that Cora is celebrating in Eternity, with Christ. Someday you’ll join her and she can tell you all about what you missed 🙂

    Much love in Jesus, Stefanie Arnold (WA)ReplyCancel

  • Kimberley - Thinking of you today and praying for peace and JOY for you both.ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - I just wanted you to know that even a stranger is thinking of you today, and praying for you and all of your family. May Cora’s love for you give you strength to get through these holidays and may you always feel her around you and within you, especially when your newest family member arrives!ReplyCancel

  • - I just love your closing verse. I have been following your story for some time, and my prayers are with you and your family. Thanks for sharing your JOY. I just posted my own “JOY” message on my blog and am adding this verse…ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - Hi Jessica,
    I have been reading your blog for years now, and I was just going through it from the beginning since I had missed the first year of it. Your faith and joy in the midst of such a difficult year are evident and beautiful.
    I am thinking of your Cora today and praying that you feel our Lord wrap His loving arms around you as you remember her too through this year, 6 years later. She is not forgotten even in Ottawa, Canada!
    Sending love from the North!
    Rachel SReplyCancel