Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happiness Happens

This is a common thought of mine, frequently wrestled with in prayer: why does fill-in-the-blank rob me of my joy? I fill that blank with my kids, my job, the minutia of adult life (bills, burned out light bulbs, weeds, etc), my computer crashing, and so on. I struggle over this because I am convinced that as a Christian these things should not shake me.

But then I heard a great observation in a sermon: "happiness is based on what happens, but joy is rooted in the eternal." Easy to remember. Happiness happens. I don't think I'm alone in the feelings I describe above and I think our problem is that we confuse happiness with joy.

It's ok not to be happy when you're running late and stuck at a red light. It's ok not to be happy when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. It's ok not to be happy when all those little things get under your skin, on your last nerve.

But the Bible commands us to "be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, emphasis added)

Honestly, I read that scripture, shake my head and wonder, how on earth?

But that's my problem. There is no "how on earth". Jesus endured the cross "for the joy set before him" (Hebrews 12:2). The joy before him wasn't here on earth, it was in eternity with God his father. We have that same hope and therefore we should share that same joy.

Jesus told his disciples prior to his betrayal and crucifixion, "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 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." (John 16:21-22) While we did not get to see the resurrected Jesus, we have confidence that we will someday. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." (v 33)

Thankfully, until that time, Jesus did not leave us all alone.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:1-5)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy, second only to love. We need to turn to, trust in, and rely upon the Holy Spirit to give us joy as we have hope in Jesus.

Instead of saying @#%! happens, remember instead that happiness happens, joy is eternal. Thanks be to God for his gift of the Holy Spirit and the hope we have in Jesus for eternity.

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