Venting. That's a tiny bit of what I'm doing right now. Here. On this blog. Because I can. Not out of anger. What adjectives can I use? Hmmmm....sad, frustrated, pitying? None of those are exactly right. It's just that I have seen more than ever lately posts from people on facebook and heard words from people's mouths that I am aquainted with that have a lot to do with being happy. They think that being happy is the goal, at the expense of what's right in God's eyes. These are people who proclaim to know Jesus and follow Him. Not that there's anything wrong with being happy. Not that I am saying I am not guilty of this, too. Because I am! I want to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy. To "feel" happy. What frustrates me is when people (including myself) focus their lives on doing whatever it takes to make themselves feel "happy".
People in our American society are bombarded every day with images and slogans from the media telling us that we "deserve" to be happy. That we should "listen to our hearts" and do whatever makes us feel happy. Well, guess what? The Bible says that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:10). If you listen to your heart, what you are possibly listening to is the Enemy whispering in your ear. There is a difference between your emotional "heart" and your Spirit. All of us as children of God should be listening to the Holy Spirit. The world has lied to us.
What usually follows when you try to chase that happy feeling? Discontentment. You become discontent with your life. Feeling like your marriage won't satisfy you. Many people have left marriages because they weren't happy and used the words, "God would want me to be happy. Life's too short not to be happy." You become discontent with your children. You start to think that if they would only act better, you'd be happy. Then there's discontentment with the material possessions you are given. In your mind, you just know that if your kitchen was redone, you'd be happy. Or if you had that new car, you'd be happy. Or if your house had new furniture, etc., etc., the list can go on forever. That feeling leads to overspending. How about discontentment with your job? Instead of being thankful that in this economy you have a job, you gripe and complain. You forget that God says, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." (Col. 4:23-24) My goodness. I'm guilty of all these examples sometimes but especially at the last one. I admit that frequently I wonder, "Am I really making a difference, Lord?"
Did you know that the Bible never says we are going to be happy? Did you know that God never promises us happiness? Did you know that God promises we are going to have trials and persecutions if we follow Christ? Does this depress you? It shouldn't. You see, the Bible doesn't talk about happiness, but it does talk a whole lot about JOY. Now, what's the difference, you may be thinking? Happiness is a temporary emotion. Joy is a permanent peace received from God. You will rarely find happiness in the midst of a trial. You will be able to find joy, though, through any circumstances.
The word JOY is used over and over in the Bible. Throughout the Old and New Testaments. But it's not always the same word for "joy". Maybe defining the words that the writers in the Bible used can help you understand it's awesome meaning.
Nehemiah 8:10 says, "....the joy of the Lord is your strength." The Hebrew word for joy there is "chedvah" which means joy or gladness. That's an easy one. Then we have JOY as it is used in Habakkuk 3:18, which states, "I will take joy in the God of my salvation." That word is "Giyl", which means "to rejoice, exult, be glad, or tremble from fear." Is is weird to you that joy would be associated with trembling? Can your mind comprehend the kind of joy that would bring peace in the midst of trials so great you are physically trembling? Wow. Another form of JOY used in the Old Testament is found in Psalm 30:5, which says, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." That kind of joy is called, "Rinnah" and it is defined as "a ringing cry of entreaty, supplication, proclamation of joy and praise."
I love the word used for JOY in the New Testament. It's "Chara" and it literally means, "joy , gladness, the joy received from you, the cause or occasion of joy, of person's who are one's joy." The word Chara is used 57 times in the New Testament. It's kind of important, wouldn't you say? Here are a couple examples. "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." Oh yeah, I want the joy that comes from Christ, and I want my joy to be full! This one is sobering: James 1:2 uses "Chara" this way, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.." Did he say trials = joy? That's the way it should be. Boy, do I have a lot to work on. How many of us count our trials as joy? This next one is my absolute favorite example, though. The same kind of joy that we are supposed to have in trials is the very same one that was used to proclaim Christ's coming!! You all know this verse, "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.'" That gives me goosebumps!
There's no power in happiness. It's great. It's fun. It's nice to feel it. But it's temporary, not eternal. The power is in JOY. Joy comes from God. Let's focus on joy. The acronym JOY -Jesus, Others, Yourself - is a great reminder that to have joy you must focus on Jesus and take your eyes off yourself.
Lord Jesus, help me to find joy in you. Help me focus on you, love others, and take my eyes off myself. In Your Precious Name, Amen.