“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let Earth receive her King!”
It’s everywhere this time of year—in storefront windows, in the faces of little children as they write detailed letters to Santa, in the elderly couple on our street celebrating the holiday with their host of children and grandchildren, in the eyes of young parents marking their little one’s firsts with pride. Joy.
For Christians, the Advent season is a time of devotion, wonder and reflection.
We think often and deeply about the fundamental tenets of our faith and how we operate daily in an effort to perfect our faith. But for LGBTQ Christians, this season can be a painful and lonely time amid awkward comments at the dinner table, refusal to use correct names or pronouns, snide jabs at the LGBTQ community, and sometimes, unfortunately, all out rejection.
So why am I telling you about joy? Because joy can be a potent remedy for heartache. Amid uncertain and often unfriendly circumstances, we must cling to the joy that God not only requires of us, but that He graciously gives us day after day.
Here are verses and encouragements to get you through tough times:
Psalms 16:11 records the Psalmist as saying the following: “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
God is faithful to open doors that show us where we’re meant to be.
His word is a road map for our lives, a guidebook for living well. In His presence, we are shown what great joy there is in trusting Him. The closer we cling to the Lord, the more bearable this broken world will be.
In a time and a space where LGBTQ people are shunned, abused, discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens, sometimes in their own homes, where can we go to find and cultivate the joy necessary to lead a fruitful life? We need only look to the Rock. If we truly trust that all of our help comes from Him, should He not be the first beacon of light that we seek out in darkness?
When we come into God’s presence in prayer, our hurting hearts are mended by God’s love and care for us. God’s love toward us is unchanging—in His eyes, we are worthy, whole, beloved and redeemed.
The world will say otherwise, but we are not of this world.
Rather, our eyes and our hearts are fixed on the things of God, just as His eyes and His heart are fixed on us.
You may be saying to me now, “All of that is nice, but how can we have joy when we face such uncertainty ahead of us?” “How can I be joyful when my Uncle calls me a disgrace to my family for being trans?” “How can I be joyful when I have lost my family for being queer?” “How can we pretend like everything is fine after the election?”
Everything is certainly not fine. LGBTQ Americans continue to experience isolation, loneliness and abandonment by biological families—this pain is even more pronounced during the holiday season, when family gatherings are the standard. The outcome of the presidential election spells danger for many of our LGBTQ siblings, and the world is ever changing, with more frightening news every day from Aleppo, Syria to Flint, Michigan.
But in John 16, as Jesus prepares the disciples for their own grief at His crucifixion, we find our answer. To assuage their fears, he tells them in verse 20 that “You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. In verse 22, Jesus continues: “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
God promises the coming of joy even in our times of grief.
We may grieve for lost families who do not honor us for who we are or who we love, or we may grieve for our nation in these frightening times, but God’s promises are eternal. God does not promise that our journey will be easy. Indeed, He says quite the opposite—that we’ll be met with strife, with temptation, and even with hatred at every turn.
But faith in Him will produce joy in even the toughest of circumstances. We place our hope in the eventual return of Jesus Christ while hoping and working for a new and better world here.
Again, you may say to me something resembling the following: “Okay, so I’m supposed to be all kum-ba-yah and happy go lucky and chipper while I suffer? While other people suffer? While our nation takes a sharp right in the wrongest of wrong directions? Yes. I’m saying that. Kind of.
James 1:2-3 implores us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” When you face trials, give God glory. Why? Because He goes before you. The action of praising God in turbulent times produces in us a firm reliance on the Lord; giving God glory amidst our sorrow sets an anchor of trust in the bedrock of our hearts.
This reliance on God produces joy, because Jeremiah 29:11 tells us so: “For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.
My fiancee and I cling to that verse, knowing full well that we may meet enemies on our path to a Godly, loving marriage.
We are blessed with loving and affirming families who look forward to standing beside us as say our vows in May, but what about our future? A biased daycare provider who won’t care for our child? Or a bigoted real estate agent who refuses to do business with us? Or a closed-minded pastor who won’t welcome us into their congregation?
These trying times may break us down and bring us to our knees, but in reality, on our knees in prayer, asking God for strength, for wisdom, for grace and for joy, might just be the best place for us all.
Photo by Grace Brown Photography