Happiness is probably the most sought “virtue” in our society. Everything around us tells us to do whatever makes us happy, to find what makes us happy, to follow what makes us happy. Marriages are made and broken based on this quest for happiness. It has become a demand and requirement for relationships that one person must make the other happy at the cost of losing that relationship. What is true happiness? Should it be such a high priority?
As I said in my last post, marriage often disappoints because we misunderstand the purpose of marriage and don’t know what true love is. Most people (including myself at one point) believe that marriage should make them happy, if it doesn’t there is something wrong, usually the other person. The truth is that marriage is meant to make us holy not happy, which are two very different foundations. (That is not to say that we should never be happy in marriage, but happiness should not be our end goal, only a byproduct.)
But even if happiness were to be our goal, many people misunderstand what true happiness is and where it comes from. The happiness the world seeks is similar to the love it depicts: all emotion, no foundation. The world simply wants to feel happy; to feel good and content, to have no conflict or discomfort. But as with all emotions, that is impossible to maintain. Only in a perfect, sinless world could we have a life with no conflict or discomfort. That feeling of happiness can even be misleading, as emotions have no sure foundation, for the heart is deceitful and cannot be trusted. (Jer 17:9)
But fear not, there is a happiness that lasts in the midst of toil and grief. That happiness is called joy. As with love, true joy that comes from God is not so much a feeling as an action, a resolution, and it only comes from God. It is a fruit of the Spirit and so can only be obtained from a close, intimate relationship with God.
Psalm 100:2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.
Joy is not only something that “happens to us” like an emotion, it is also something that we should express or exude. We should serve and praise God with joy, as opposed to an expression of mere duty or boredom. It comes from delighting in God, delight in serving and honoring Him.
Nehemiah 8:10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
As opposed to happiness which makes us feel good but provides little else, joy is our strength. It gives us the hope, will and endurance to press on in the midst of trouble. It helps us face doubt and depression without succumbing to them. Joy is mentioned 54 times in the book of Psalms alone, all of which relate to joy in praising and serving God, expressing delight in Him. Joy comes from having our hope in God, rather than depending on anything on this earth that is fallen and unreliable. Joy comes from trusting that God will work EVERYTHING out for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) Joy comes from the fruition of goodness, when God’s word triumphs and we are blessed by His victory whether it is in the redemption of a lost soul, victory over sin or perseverance that is rewarded with success.
Joy also comes more from serving others and seeing God bless them, than from being blessed ourselves. Unlike happiness which is entirely self focused, true joy is focused on others and God. And it can be present in and even felt over difficulties because of our assurance that God is in control, His will is for our good, and He is our hope and glory.
Hebrews 10:34 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
We can consider EVERYTHING as a cause for joy because we know that God will make it turn out for our benefit, whether that is the perfecting of our souls or the opportunity to share His love and grace with others. (James 1:2-3) If we seek joy in everything we will be a light to the world that darkness is not the end. We can give them hope and inspire them to look beyond their circumstances. We can have joy because we know with full assurance that one day we will gain what we hope for, that is Christ Himself.
One day we will leave this fallen, broken world and be with Him for ever in perfect holiness and bliss. One day He will remove every sin, every blemish, every tear, every scar of this world as if it had never been. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, died to pay for our sins and is with God now, if we acknowledge our sin and ask His forgiveness and help to resist them, if we submit our lives to His will, we have that assurance and nothing can take it away. That is our joy. Seek it and seek Him!
Philippians is a book of joy. I would encourage you to read it and uncover Paul’s secrets of joy!