It’s October 8, 1981. My wife, Deb, is in labor with our first child. At this point in history, it’s common for a baby’s gender to be a surprise, and we don’t know if we’re having a boy or a girl. The suspense is high — it feels like we’ve been waiting for this day forever!

Deb is past her due date, and she had to be induced, but we aren’t making progress. Soon we will be sent home to try another day when the nurse checks the monitors; our child’s heart rate is keeps going up.

This isn’t good, and now, we’re in an emergency.

In a matter of moments, a doctor rushes into the room. He says we can’t wait any longer — he’ll need to deliver the baby immediately via cesarean section. It’s scary for Deb and me, but the doctors and the nurses move with speed and precision.

Before long, we’re the parents of a brand new, beautiful baby boy. At that moment, our lives have changed forever. We experienced joy like never before! And even all these years later, that grownup boy, and our two other sons, still gives us joy.

Thinking back on his birth, I realize, in many circumstances, joy usually comes as the result of two uncomfortable truths.

First, we often experience the greatest joy after a period of waiting. For example, the joy I experienced when I married Deb only came after a period of waiting and dating. Similarly, the joy of becoming a parent only comes after waiting to conceive, then waiting through pregnancy. Or, for many, after waiting to be approved for adoption and matched to a child.

Those months of waiting can be exciting, but they can also be filled with anxiety, anguish, fear, and uncertainty. Sometimes it’s full of tears. As the writer, King David says,

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).

Second, we typically experience the greatest joy when we have to focus on someone outside ourselves. In parenting, joy comes while focusing on what’s best for our children rather than ourselves. And you can’t experience the joy of a lifelong friendship without personal sacrifice, going through the ups and downs of life, and giving generously.

Christmas day is around the corner, and we all want to experience the joy of Christmas. So, if you’re stuck in a period of waiting (or walking through one with someone you love), I have a suggestion, follow the JOY formula.

I learned it thanks to a song my grandson’s pre-school class sang in a children’s musical called The Christmas Express (thanks to the writer, Celeste Clydesdale).

J is for Jesus. He leads the way.

At Christmas, we celebrate the real reason for joy: His birth. Even the angels knew that joy had come.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:10).

Everything starts with Jesus. We must accept we can’t do everything by ourselves — that’s a myth of our culture. We need God’s power.

O is for others. The people we meet in the passenger car — they come before me.

Spend your time thinking about and doing things for others. You can’t experience true joy when you’re preoccupied with yourself and your situation. Joy comes from giving your life away to others. Try picking up the phone and calling someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Help someone who needs assistance. Do something for another person.

Y is for you. It’s the way to find joy in all that you do.

Yes, you come last, but you’re still important. God won’t forget you. He has a plan for you — and me too!

Remember, whatever you’re going through is temporary. Jesus is the reason we have joy in our lives because He secured our salvation.

Relax and follow the JOY formula!

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