From the moment Adam and Eve fell into sin, God has been planning a path for humanity, a way to joy, ending in restoration, reconciliation, and redemption. God has always had a way of upending sorrow and turning it to joy. The path leads through wilderness, trial, temptation, loss, and hardship, yet God provides hope and help along the way.
Throughout the biblical narrative, joy springs up in festival remembrances, miraculous deliverances, military victories, temple rebuilding projects, and answered prayers. Think of the exodus, David’s victory over Goliath, Esther’s work to save her people, and the return from the Babylonian exile. Joy happens when God’s people move forward in God’s plan.
All creation expresses joy. David sings about creation’s joy in 1 Chronicles 16:31–33:
“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth” (NIV).
Why does creation rejoice? Why are the nations glad? Because the righteous Lord will come, bringing justice upon the earth.
The prophet Isaiah lived in tumultuous times filled with idolatry, materialism, and political oppression leading to poverty. But, like David, Isaiah saw God’s joy path. Isaiah 35 is a word of hope to the hopeless: The Lord will rescue the redeemed, and crown them with everlasting joy! “The wilderness will rejoice and blossom” (v. 1, NIV) and “water will gush forth in the wilderness” (v. 6, NIV). Isaiah has a way with words.
As donor partners with World Vision, we have seen this kind of joy time and again as clean water is pumped to remote areas, kept clean in accessible water kiosks, and even piped into homes through the efforts of dedicated local water teams. In dry Ethiopian villages, little boys wash their faces and drink clean water. In Rwanda, women dance their appreciation and tell how happy they are to have clean clothes so they can feel good going to church. Other women start a drilling company, using a VisionFund loan. Honduran families build new homes with water points just outside, proud for their children to attend school and have better health. Schoolchildren in Zambia learn about handwashing through WASH UP! games and songs, a partnership between World Vision and Sesame Workshop.
We have also seen this joy when Kenyan schoolchildren receive Bibles. The children learn of God’s goodness through His Word and share it with their families. They sing, worship, act out the stories of the Bible, and learn how they’re created in God’s image — how they have a purpose in life. They are finding the joy path to abundant life.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah saw the path of joy, the highway in the desert that leads straight to Jesus. He called it the “Way of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8, NIV) — a path for the redeemed — and prophesied the coming of the Messiah. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” he says (Isaiah 9:6, KJV).
And finally, it happened. Luke 2 tells of the night joy came down! “While they were [in Bethlehem], the time came for the baby to be born, and [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room for available for them” (vv. 6–7, NIV). The joy path ran through a humble stable.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds, the joy path led through the fields, through the darkness, and through the fear. “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’” (vv. 10–11, NIV). And suddenly the sky was filled with heavenly beings praising God. The shepherds ran to find the baby, and the joy path led them straight to Jesus. As Christmas approaches, we rejoice again, for almighty God coming as a tiny baby brings the purest joy!
In His life, Jesus’s path led through service and sacrifice and ultimately to the cross. Yet Hebrews 12:2 tells us we’re to fix our eyes on Jesus because “for the joy set before him he endured the cross” (NIV). Joy lies beyond even the most painful death and invites us into new life in Jesus. Heaven reverberates with joyful singing!
The Christian life path leads through service to others. Partnering with World Vision brings us joy as we see the transformed lives and grateful hearts of people flourishing through resources like water, loans, and Bibles. As we see the smiles on faces of these brothers and sisters, we learn that no matter the sorrow, trials, or hardships of this life, God can and will turn grief into joy. And He does the same in our lives, too.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul says plainly in Philippians 4:4 (NIV). Let us, like all creation, sing together this season as we follow the joy path God has laid out for us. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. … Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:11–12, NIV).
This is the path to joy.