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Surprised by Joy . . .

05 Jan

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Photo by krosseel on Morgue File.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/daily-prompt-happy/

What does “happiness” look like to you?

I remember once, many years ago, a brother in Christ and I were discussing this very thing. He was basically saying how his goal in life was to be happy. He wanted to feel happiness about his faith, his family and his career. He wanted happiness to be his defining quality as a person. He was encouraging me to follow the same path. He wanted me to have that same experience that he seemingly had, of a daily feeling of happiness.

Am I against happiness? I do remember at the time telling him that happiness was not the be-all and end-all for me. I understood what he was saying, but I did not agree with it completely. Happiness is a good thing. I am not some curmudgeon who goes around with a scowl on his face and a Bah, Humbug on his lips. Well, maybe that does describe me some of the time!

I enjoy happiness as much as most I think. But, I see a problem with happiness being my goal: happiness is not constant. No matter how hard a person may try, sooner or later, happiness will disappoint. Why? Because there are too many things in life that can steal our happiness from us. Happiness is a great thing, but it is fickle. It is an emotion and emotions change.

I know of no one, my brother in Christ who loved happiness so much included, who is perpetually happy. I do not think it is possible.

Yes, I have many things in life that make me happy. My faith, family, writing and others. I feel happiness from all these things often; but not always. Maybe the problem is me. That is a real possibility. Of course, the truth is, we are all the problem to a degree. I appreciate happiness, I am, if I can say it this way, happy when happiness comes. But, I know it is not a constant.

Now, it may be true some live more happy lives than others. It probably is true that some people are happier more often than others. But, even still, I do not think anyone is happy all the time.

But, here is something God has taught me. Happiness is good, even great to experience; but, there is something that is even better, something that is more lasting and constant: joy.

The Bible teaches that as a believer in Christ, I can experience and have constant joy in my life. Does this mean problems will not arise? Does it mean my life will be defined by health and wealth? Does it mean troubling things will not happen to me? No. It means that I can have a contentment, a peace (which passes all understanding) within me that gives me hope and sustains me: not only in the good times; but, more importantly, during the tough times of life.

This joy the Scriptures speak of, is not natural to me. It is not something I can muster up on my own. It is not a product of positive thinking or sheer, determined will-power. It is, rather, a gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

You see, when I became a Christian, when I became a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ, I experienced what Jesus called the new-birth . . . I was born again. This is the great truth Christ taught the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus in John 3. I’m sure most are familiar with John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his One and Unique Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. This quotation is found in the context of his conversation with this religious leader, who was seeking truth, seeking to answer his nagging questions about life after death: eternity.

Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to have eternal life, one must be born again. Jesus goes on to define that as faith and belief in him, as the Son of God, the Messiah.

When I experienced this myself, when I experienced the salvation of Christ, my life changed forever. I became, to use Paul’s words, a new creature. I became a new person, a new being. I received a new identity, a new life, a new inheritance, a new name, a new destiny, a new reward, a new relationship, a new family . . .  and on and on I could go.

When this happened, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within me. Now here is the crux of the matter. Because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, I can have that abiding joy I wrote of earlier. I can have that joy because again, it is not based on me or my fickle, moody disposition; but rather, it is based on the eternal Spirit of God who resides in my heart and life.

The more I submit to Christ, the more I allow the Holy Spirit to have control of my life, the more I will experience and sense the joy he gives. This Christian joy is a by-product of my relationship with God. Yes, God expects obedience from his children, this is an aspect of my discipleship in Christ; but, even more to the point, God wants relationship, he wants fellowship. God is a god who has loved us with an unimaginable love. He has given freely and completely of himself, by sending his Son to die for our sins, so that we could have that eternal life (his life) and be with him forever.

I thank God for his joy that he gives to me. I thank God that this joy sustains me, even when things are turbulent in my life. I thank God for his love and grace and care for me.

And yes, this makes me happy!

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom. 15.13)

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1.8-9)

“Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” (C. S. Lewis: Letters to Malcolm)

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