Joy. There’s something different in joy than in happiness. In the words of my favorite pastor (Dan, Journey Campus), “Happiness is self-worship. The trouble with happiness is that it depends on what’s happening. But joy is built on the foundation of knowing someOne, not having something. Joy is completeness in Christ.” Joy, true unabated joy in the Lord, is something that cannot be substituted for. Why? Because there simply isn’t anything else like it. Happiness is a temporary, cheap knock-off. Happiness fades and wears with time, but joy grows with time — if you let it.
I was thinking, “what do I so often trade in my joy from the Lord for?” My answer: temporary happiness because of someone who isn’t the Lord. I am confident I am not the only one who does this. To be completely, transparently honest, I decieve myself into thinking if I start hinging my happiness on “Christian people” and let that become more important than the joy of the Lord, it’s still okay —- you know, because those people love God, too. No, it’s not okay.
I have been guilty of letting that text message from that “oh so sweet Christian boy” bring me happiness in place of the joy of the Lord through prayer. I have been guilty of substituting my quiet time with God for “hanging out” with God’s people — or just ONE person who loves God. I have been guilty of letting the compliment from “that special person” mean more to me than God’s Word telling me “Mary, I -the Creator of Life- love YOU. I made you. I say you are wonderfully made. I love you more than the sun and the stars. I chose you to be Mine. I whisper good morning to you every single day. I let you rest in My arms every single night. I show how much I care about you with every breath you breathe.” Really, is there even a comparison? No, not at all.
There’s a certain pang of remorse that I feel with the realization that I trade my joy from the completeness in the Lord for temporary, always-failing happiness from the acceptance of someone else (even if that someone else is a God-fearing Christian person). To accompany remorse is guilt, shame, sadness, and anger with myself. But as it always is with my merciful and loving God, there is redemption: He is still here, holding joy out to clothe me in. No more wearing around happiness like a tattered, weather-worn jacket. God is clothing me in a cozy, withstanding coat of joy. He is offering me the joy I was so eager to dismiss. He is dismissing my shame, guilt, remorse, self-anger, and sadness of knowing I have given up joy. Why? Because He loves me. Because He is faithful . Because He knows what I want even when I am confused. Because He is merciful. Because He is forgiving. Because He is Yaweh.
I invite and challenge YOU to find what you trade in your joy for. What do you allow to bring you temporary happiness? Get rid of it. Ask the Lord for His joy to fill you. Ask for Him to remove what thing or person you let dictate your happiness and your degree of joy. (I’m not saying that if someone makes you happy to get rid of them. But if you rely on them making you happy instead of having joy from God, then yes — make some changes.) Seek joy in Him alone, and I can promise you: it will stand every test and every trial. It’s a hard thing to do, given that we are selfish beings by nature and would rather have happiness (remember, it’s self-worship) than joy (completeness in Christ). But wouldn’t you rather be complete in your Savior than bowing down to yourself?
Let me be clear: I think it is acceptable and encouraged to find joy in Christian fellowship. I am NOT saying that being joyful or happy because of or with other Christians (or non-Christians) is a bad thing. I am simply saying that the core of your joy….it should be from Christ. I am saying that at your core should be joy in Christ above happiness. But is all happiness bad? No, I think not.
It is my goal to lay aside the things and/or people that I have sought happiness in and seek only the Lord further, to seek to grasp the joy of the Lord and live on that. Let His whispers and His displays of love bring me more joy than anything else. Let His Word touch my heart more than the words of anyone else. Let my worship be His and not my own. Let my joy be in Jesus. Let my life be joyful.