What are the things that make you happy? When, at the end of the month and all the bills are paid, you have something left over – I suspect that makes you happy. Or when you have a dentist appointment and after examining your teeth, the dentist simply says, “No cavities, everything looks good, we don’t have to do anything, come back next year.” Or when your children come to visit and are filled with all good news and share the happiness of their lives.
Happiness is a condition of life where everything is going well for us, when there are no major hassles or upsets, when there is a predictability and rhythm to life with which we are satisfied and comfortable. All is well and we feel a sense of being in control of our life situation.
When Jesus gathered His disciples around Him, just prior to His arrest and trial and crucifixion, the Gospel writer, John, tell us that Jesus made certain promises to them. He promised them that, although He was about to leave this earth, another would be sent to guide and support and strengthen them – the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that they would experience the love of God in new and various ways. But there is one promise that Jesus never made to the disciples: Jesus never promised them that their lives would be easy and filled with happiness; there was no assurance that they would have everything they wanted, or even needed, for a relaxing, comfortable journey through life. What He did promise them, however, is joy: “I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love.... I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be completed.”
Joyful living is quite different from being happy. Joy comes in connection with Jesus. Joy comes in the presence of God. Joy can happen without money or good health or the perfect child. Joy happens when we get to the basics of life and realize that love is at the center. Joy is experienced as we grow in our awareness of the love of God that surrounds us throughout this journey of life – in the deepest of valleys or the steepest of mountains. Joy is not dependent on life going well or easily for us – it depends on our openness to God’s love at work in our lives quite apart from our present condition.
A completed joy comes in spite of terrible losses. As a matter of fact we may never know the joy that is offered by God if we don’t also experience suffering in our lives. And that may be precisely why so many in our society have not been able to embrace God fully and completely – simply because so few in our society have truly experienced suffering in its fullness. Consider if you will the stories that we often hear of those Christians in other countries who face persecution, starvation, loss of home, indeed the loss of everything which seems so precious to us. Why is it that they can rejoice and celebrate and have an astounding sense of faith? Because their joy is not dependent on life going well for them – their joy comes from the knowledge that, in spite of their condition, God is with them. Too often we, in our American society, have confused happiness and joy. We have made our trust and openness to God conditional upon everything going right for us, life as an easy street of painless and enjoyable living.
We become so easily discouraged and frustrated with God, for we have somehow identified an easy life with God’s blessing and God’s presence with us – if life is stress free and enjoyable than God is near to us – that is too often our interpretation of God’s relationship with us. We turn our backs on God in anger if life does not deal us what we consider a fair hand. How much we miss of the true nature of faith with this attitude!!
There is something else about happiness and joy. You really can’t share happiness – it is something that is very personal, depending on your own circumstance in life. But joy can be shared, a joy that infects others as well. It really depends on your attitude. How are you affected by where you are at the moment in your journey? You know that there are many people for whom the slightest little setback, the most irrelevant irritation, the most minor inconvenience becomes a major event – something about which they whine and moan and complain. What kind of attitude do you think they have about the presence of God in their lives? Is this the kind of attitude that is reflected by those who have experienced the joy that comes in experiencing the presence of Christ? What about those who have known much suffering and struggle in their lives, yet who have a sense of joy that they share with others? What kind of attitude do you think they have about the presence of God in their lives? Which one of these truly understands Jesus words to His disciples. Which one of these has experienced the complete joy that Jesus has to offer?
Such a joy can only be offered by those who know the love of God at work in their lives, whatever their condition. And, in joy, these folks respond in obedience to Jesus’ command: love one another. For it is only with such an abiding joy that we have the confidence and the security to share and to love. Jesus has chosen us to share in a complete joy, a joy that those who are merely happy can never share. May you know Jesus’ promises are true – not the promise of an easy and carefree journey through life, but the promise of a complete joy that is not dependent on life’s circumstance. Pastor George
IN OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS
Darla Jean Christopher, Betty Davis, Russwin Francisco, Kenneth Golden, Rev. Dr. Bill Herzog, John Harrison Hoffman, Donald Hubbard, Sr., Kathryn Kepner, Evelyn Kretz, MacKenzie Kretz, Josh Langley, Bob Miller, Joann Motter, Ashlee (Black) Pyne, Laurie Singh, Tom Smith, Peg Taughinbaugh, Mary Timmins, Mckenna Voss, Jean Weiant, Teeyara Jo Weiant and Pete and Joan Wilson
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