(of Joy and Happiness)
We live in an age of anxiety, stress and disappointment. Surely our benevolent God just wants joy and happiness for His creation, right? Well, yes and no.
According to Webster, to be happy is “to feel or show pleasure or contentment”. Webster defines having joy as “feeling, expressing or causing great pleasure or happiness”. Good stuff, but we can have and were created for so much more. I’d like to unwrap some slightly deeper definitions of the concepts of joy and happiness through the lens of the Believer.
John Piper, of desiringGod.org explains what “Christian joy” is, “…a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world”. Characteristically, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. infused brotherly love in his description of happiness stating, “Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others”. I imagine these descriptions, developed by these two preachers of God’s good news were undoubtedly somewhat influenced by the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who made eleven references to “joy” and “rejoicing” in his letters to the Philippians, written during his imprisonment for evangelizing. Paul thought it was important to encourage and praise efforts in the young Church to continue to spread the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit, and choose JOY ( “Jesus Over You”, as one of my sisters characterizes it) even in the face of persecution and death. Paul opens one letter with selfless encouragement, “Therefore my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm, this in the LORD, my beloved.” ( Phil. 4:1 ESV)
What about Jesus? How would our joy and happiness look to Him? He lovingly characterized how we Believers can connect to Him, be nourished by Him and experience true joy in the fifteenth chapter of John. He said in verse 11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. So then how is a Believer truly “in” Christ? When we with great effort do as Jesus tells us to in His Word: “…If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me”. What “cross”? Whatever breaks your heart. Whatever binds you to this world and burdens you. Bring it with you. Then what? Follow? To follow Christ is to immerse yourself in His teachings, model His ways, applying His ways to your burdens. So where does the “joy” come in? It comes in the inevitable exchange of your desires for His. Whatever moves Him to act, moves you to do the same. You are less worldly tethered and more Kingdom-minded. Not lofty, mind you, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, actually grounded in God’s desires for you.
My conclusion? To live in a state of Christian joy and happiness is far more valuable and lasting than the temporal happiness of my small self-revolving world. House flipped, joy and happiness ensues.
(of Joy and Happiness)