Leaving aside happiness

Do you want to be happy?

So many pursue happiness only to realize that to attain happiness is to lose it. Happiness is often like a sugar rush, and that brief momentary feeling only leaves us wanting more.

Happy lives do not equal content lives.

Despite what the world may sell, God has no great desire for you to be happy, at least not the way the world views happiness. Despite how many Christians behave, God does not desire for us to be gloomy either.

The trick is to understand that God calls us to joy-filled lives.

“But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!” (Psalm 68:3).

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Just before the darkest night in the history of humanity, Jesus spoke of joy to his disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Sit with this phrase for a moment, “that my joy may be in you.” The “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3), had joy to give.

Why do we so readily exchange joy for happiness? Perhaps it is because joy is real, and real is hard. Happiness is an itch that we scratch with a new toy, some comfort food, or our favorite show. Joy takes time and effort.

When my first child was born, I dubbed him my little “joy-bringer.” Since before his birth he has brought much real and lasting joy. (He also brought visits from my mother-in-law, Joy). But the real joy-giver is God. The Psalmist called Jehovah, “my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4).

In order to cultivate joy we must develop a deep relationship with the Giver of all good things. We must drink deeply from the fount of joy. Yes, we must understand pain and loss and grapple with deep anguish. It is here, especially here, that we must leave behind the shallowness of happiness, and grope for the abiding joy that God, our salvation, can alone provide.

D.L. Moody once wrote:

Happiness is caused by things which happen around me, and circumstances will mar it, but joy flows right on through trouble; joy flows on through the dark; joy flows in the night as well as in the day; joy flows all through persecution and opposition; it flows right along, for it is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret spring which the world can’t see and doesn’t know anything about; but the Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to Him. /1

It was that “unceasing fountain” that permitted David to praise the Lord while fleeing from Saul. It was that “secret spring” that allowed the disciples to rejoice in the midst of great persecution (Acts 5:40-41).¬†With joy one can overcome this world, just as Jesus did the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Do I want to be happy? Men can take my happiness. I want joy overflowing. For that I must look upward.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1).


1/ That quote is ubiquitous, but I believe you can find it in Secret Power.

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