“Happiness isn’t worthless!” you say. Well coming from a Biblical standpoint, it very much is. Just read the book of Ecclesiastes. Instead there’s something much more awesome in store for you. Joy.
The other day I was driving home in such a good mood. It was quite surreal. The sky seemed more vibrant in it’s fading sunset, life felt perfect, and the birds were singing the most wonderful music… despite the fact that I couldn’t hear them over the roar of my old car speeding down the tollway. And I began to think, what has me in such a good mood? I’m so stressed out from school and work. I have projects and papers and tests to work on/write/study for. I have three herniated discs in my back which makes even sitting in my car uncomfortable and has rendered multiple muscles in my left leg temporarily useless. I’m paying bunches of bucks just to get this back problem temporarily fixed. I’m single again, and it’s not like there’s a line of girls out the door waiting to date me. I just had to say “no” to an amazing job offer partially due to health reasons. Any normal person would be looking at their life at this point and start feeling slightly depressed; and I am much less than any normal person.
So why, then, do I have this great happiness overwhelming me, giving me a sense of hope and fulfillment, when a lot of things in my life seem to be going the opposite direction that I want them to be going?
Then I realized, it wasn’t happiness that I felt, but joy – joy that couldn’t come from anywhere except from God. It’s the greatest feeling, I’m telling you. It gives a hope that great things are to come. A peace that I’m not the only one in control of my life. A love for others around me, that surpasses anything I could possibly muster.
I compare it to a feeling I had every now and then while growing up. Being a boy, I always aspired to be like my dad; and whenever I did something that my dad liked/was proud of, I felt like the master of the world, or maybe something slightly less like…the master of my backyard maybe.
From Famine to Feast
But I digress. I have found that this joy I’ve been feeling lately isn’t something goes away when life goes sour. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of stuff online and talking to various people who give evidence to a famine of happiness. People (some of them friends) speak about being tired of life. Ready to give up on their dreams. Ready to give up on life. Et cetera. All I want to do is tell them about this amazing love that can bring so much joy in life, but God is still working on my ability to speak clearly and wisely with confidence. So for this reason, I want to put up this blog post. Because I remember this part of my life! And it wasn’t even that long ago! I was constantly chasing after all these temporary highs, trying to make myself happy as often as possible, only to become depressed and upset (and sometimes even angry) at my pitiful excuse for a life. If this sounds like you even remotely, keep reading, cuz this gets good.
Looking back on how much I didn’t like my life and how I often felt my world crumbling around me, I now think of Paul, who wrote more books of the Bible than anyone else. All if them are letters to various churches. In Paul’s last letter to his dear friend Timothy, Paul is imprisoned by Nero and knows that his execution is imminent. Regardless, before he can get too far into his letter he tells Timothy this:
“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day (the day that Paul arrives in heaven).” 2 Timothy 1:12
and at the end of the same letter
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:18
Crazy right? This guy knows he’s about to die at the hands of the Romans, yet he is talking about hope and peace. Where is this coming from??? It gets worse too, because this is only the end of a long list of things Paul had to endure in just 20 short years. Just before Paul reveals to us that he even has a physical infirmity that he must deal with every day of his life, he tell us just how bad he has it.
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and bee exposed to death again and again. Five times, I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from the Gentile; in danger in the city, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin and, I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus who is to be praised forever knows that I am not lying.” 2 Corinthians 23b-31
Suffice to say, Paul had it pretty bad. And yet in the end, we find him boasting in how crappy his life is! He always seems to be filled with joy and praising God, too.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” 2 Corinthians 1:3
“in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” 2 Corinthians 7:4c
“I always pray with joy” Philippians 1:4b
to give a few examples.
So either this Paul guy was certifiably insane for being so joyful in a life that seems just absolutely miserable, or we’re missing something. I tend to think it is the latter; and thankfully this missing piece is not left a mystery to us.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6
So, this joy comes from the Holy Spirit. And it’s a joy that surpasses all things awful and makes life bearable – not because life is easy, mind you, but because with the reception of the Holy Spirit comes the comfort and knowledge that we will never have to go through any challenge alone again. How’s that for awesome – having a friend by your side for the rest of your life, someone with a 100% success rate at getting you through the tough times. I dunno about you, but for me just thinking about that gives me great hope.
So the best part is, this feast of hope and peace and joy is so easily accessible. It is a gift that is already available to you and me. As a Christian, all that you have to do is remember that God’s got it under control and then trust in and follow Him. As a non-Christian, it’s just as easy. If you would like a more in-depth explanation, look at some of my earlier blogs. But the short truth is that you can’t do anything to earn this feast. Which is great news for those of us who are lazy (this guy :P). Jesus’ sacrifice is the only way that we can have access to His gifts. Once you truly accept that, He bestows them upon you. Simple as that. If you want to know more about this sacrifice, just read this blog that I wrote last year.
Well that’s enough preaching from me today. Don’t forget though, I don’t have all the answers. Heck, I don’t have a one hundredth of the answers. But there is one place you can look for all answers to any questions you may have; that is, the Bible. God’s Word in print. I definitely encourage you to explore it with your questions to come to your own conclusions rather than taking someone’s opinion. If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend you start with Romans. Or one of these many passages and books I’ve listed for you in this blog. Or start with Ezra, because you do what you want to do and ain’t nobody gonna tell you otherwise. Lol. Just get in the Bible and read. You have no idea how quickly you’ll start learning some amazing lessons.
With that I will leave you with a few more words from Paul, this time written for you:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13