Joy, Lent

Sunday Joy: I Choose Joy

Joy is a facinating thing to me.  I don’t quite understand it and am thankful that it is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in my life and not something I have to muster up on my own.

But until recently I think that’s how I treated it…as something I must make happen.  People would say something like “choose joy”– a phrase I’ve heard, loved, and even used for years–but sometimes I wonder if my “choosing joy” really was more like “acting-like-nothing’s-wrong-and-putting-on-this-happy-Christian-face”.  (Which, by the way is not really joy at all.)

I knew I had experienced joy–true genuine joy–before and I knew I wanted more of it in my life, however I think a few weeks ago I finally understood it a little more.

In talking with a friend about a certain situation throughout the course of a day, my attitude had much improved about this situation from earlier in the day.  She commented, “You sound happy.”

I knew what she meant, but it still didn’t seem quite right. In fact I was anything but happy about the situation, and I suddenly realized, I wasn’t happy, but I WAS joyful.

I began to wonder if maybe “choosing joy” isn’t really a choice between “joy” and “sadness” as I had always supposed it to be.  No, more often than not, that just ends up with the fake smile plastered on your face.  Maybe, the choice is rather between joy and HAPPINESS.  Those are really the things that are at times in competition with each other.

As I talked about earlier this week in the post about giving up the pursuit of happiness, my definition of what will make me happy in life is first of all very unlikely to actually come through. More than that, the pursuit of happiness often ends up stealing my joy not fulfilling it.

Joy and sadness or pain or struggle on the other hand I’ve found often go well together. Because joy is not dependent on circumstances but rather on Jesus, our Joy-Bringer. And from what I’ve come to learn about this amazing God is that He loves to bring joy in EVERYTHING.

Habakkuk said it this way:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬)

So, as I told my friend the other day, at least in that situation: Happy? No. But by God’s Grace, I’m was filled with joy and for that I’m thankful!

Lent

Giving up the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

The American Dream, right?

While I am so thankful to life in a country with considerably more freedom than many in the world, I sometimes wonder if our lofty ideals actually make us sell ourselves short.  What I find most interesting about these “rights” found in our Declaration of Independence is that life and liberty are rights, yet only the pursuit of happiness.  

What I’ve come to realize is that it’s actually quite fitting, for happiness seems to often be one of those things that we love to pursue but never quite seem to attain.  The grass is always greener on the other side, right? (another blog post about this coming soon).  We pursue and pursue and pursue and often are left coming up short.

Oh how easy it is for me to get caught in this pursuit.  If this happens in my life, then I will be happy.  If I had that item, then I would be happy.  If I didn’t have to do this, then I would be happy.  

It never really seems to work out that way, does it.  So today, I pray I would be able to give up the pursuit of happiness and simply pursue Jesus. He provides something even greater…. He provides joy. And it comes with no “pursuit” involved.  It comes simply in abiding.  John 15 puts it this way:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. … By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love…. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:4-5, 8-9, 11‬)

Teach me to abide, Jesus.  Teach me that You are more than enough.  Teach me to bear much fruit and bring glory to Your Father.  Teach me to be and make disciples. Teach me to abide in your love that Your joy may be in me and that my joy may be full!  Teach me to pursue You and You alone!