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May Newsletter: Happiness

Joy not happiness!

I saw an interesting sign the other day, it said: Money can’t make you happy.  But, money can buy you a cow, a cow can give milk, you can make ice cream with milk.  Ice Cream can make you happy!

Just like everyone else’s, Jane’s and my life can be full of all kinds of stress and pressure that has to be dealt with.   I’m unaware of anyone’s life that’s completely isolated from trouble of some kind.   However, because of the Gospel of Christ, many of my newsletters seem to have a positive bent.  It’s just such Good News.  I can’t find anything to be sad or discouraged about when thinking about Him.  I hope this letter might explain our Gospel optimism a bit further.

Jane often makes the following expression when talking about the rehab after her paralysis a few years ago: ‘I’ll be happy just to get out of this wheelchair and use a walker.  I’ll be happy if I could just use a cane instead of this walker.  I would be happy if I could just hold on to the wall and walk down the hall and lay this cane down.’  Happy kept moving on her.  Actually, happy, it seems, is always out in front, just out of our reach.  It wasn’t until she began to walk again, drive again, that it dawned on her that happiness could be so fleeting.  Subsequently, she’s now much more comfortable contrasting happiness with Joy.  They’re not the same. There are times we’re happy, but three days later we’re yearning for something to make us happy again.  (I’m kind of like that after getting an Amazon package.)  However, there’re times we can be very unhappy and yet full of Joy at that very same time.  Joy is created by His Spirit and completely separate from what might make us happy.  We often confuse happiness with pleasure, but pleasure is at best an illusion, a shadow of God’s Joy, but not the real thing.  A person can live his whole life seeking after pleasure and never find satisfaction.  Jane and I have discovered you can’t find Joy in a momentary emotion.  People are the kind of creatures that, by our very nature, even being happy for a moment, would still find some excuse to be unhappy almost immediately.  I think the reason for that is we all have a deep (God given) yearning for His true Happiness, something that our little collection of ‘happy things’ can’t give.

People that are full of Joy, in some sense of that word, are happy everywhere; owning a beautiful home or simply renting a little flat.  They can be satisfied with a big bank account and not so big bank accounts; some whether they’re as healthy as a horse and some that might be sick as a dog.  The difference is that people full of Joy have discovered a fountain of happiness which is situated in their own heart.   As long as we haven’t found that fountain, what Jesus called a river of living water, nothing will give us a long-lasting happiness.  The Greek word Joy is closely associated with gladness, or to be pleased.  It’s not a gladness that celebrates any particular moment or event; it’s a gladness that simply stays in thanksgiving no matter the moment.  Scripture tells us to be full of thanks in all things (1Thes. 5:18, Eph. 5:20).   We can’t do that by our own design and effort.  That kind of Joy comes from knowing who you are in Christ and Who He is in you.  Fact: the Spirit of God truly has been established deep inside our hearts.  Fact: if recognized, our inner person shouldn’t always be responding to what’s going on outside our heart.  Because of Christ living in us, our inside is strong, stable, convinced and not moved away from truths of the Gospel.  This Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit and is part of the package delivered by the presence of God in us. (Gal. 5:22)

There’s a mystery the New Testament writers referred to quite often.  The secret for gladness is hidden behind a veil– that veil, the discovery of spiritual knowledge.  Spiritual knowledge is nothing but this:  a constant longing in the heart of man to have and know something of his beginning, his purpose.  It’s an inner longing to experience something of what it was like, what was true of Adam and Eve, before the fall.  That fall messed up our peace, it disturbed our understanding of our relationship with a God that prefers to be called Father.  It’s possible that kind of Joy can elude us all our lives.  We can wander aimlessly from ‘happy’ to ‘happy’, all the while being ignorant of the thing that matters most: acceptance and adoption into God’s Life.   That’s the true source of Joy. God already knows who we are and why we’re here.  Our struggle is not with Him, but that we haven’t discovered it for ourselves.

Recently, my 13 year old grandson said something Jane and I had to pause and think about.  It was something he could not have been taught by our family because none of us are wise enough to have suggested it to him.  The subject strangely was the sadness of people that separate themselves from God and choose to be eternally separated.  His comment was:  (I paraphrase) how sad it was that those people would live their lives, make that choice, and because of choosing that separation, ‘they’ll never know who they were supposed to be’.   That exactly describes the Joy of this letter.  To always be looking for something then dying without ever finding it is very, very sad for sure.  But that’s the whole of the Gospel.   Jesus came to give us a path to Joy.  He made it possible to find Joy in this life and in the Life hereafter.

Once the spiritual knowledge of the Love of God comes, people can see there’s something that will make them really happy and give them their heart’s desire. I have a note tucked away in one of my books and I don’t remember where it came from but it goes like this:  ‘Though there are many things in life which I need for the moment, and for which I shall certainly work, yet there is only that one thing, around which life centers, one thing that will satisfy me:  … the attainment of God.   Such a one has found the key to all happiness, and has found that all the things he needs will be reached because he has the key to all.’

The Kingdom of God is righteousness (from God), Peace (from God) and Joy (from God).  All are found in His manifestation on earth: the Holy Spirit of God. (Rom. 14:17)   Jesus endured the cross for the Joy set before him. (Heb. 12:2)  I might paraphrase that scripture like this:  Look at Christ, look at Him intently, perceive and understand that He carried our pain, misfortune, hardship, our afflictions, and though despising the anger of mankind and its injustice, yet He endured that because of the Joy set before Him, because of the salvation of believers made possible by the world’s punishment placed on the Son of God.

Is it realistic to think that we can be full of Joy in harsh, tough situations?  I believe we can.  Jane and I have experienced that and have seen that in others.   Peace is the spiritual blessing of knowing the Father’s character and nature and incorporating that into our hearts.  It’s not what we think with our logical brains or even what others have said about Him, but knowing Him because of an encounter with Him.  That personal knowing Him pushes away fear, discouragement, and anger.  In difficult times we’re not challenged to guess the whys because we know Who.  Why did we ever need the Gospel of John to tell us about a Comforter if we would never need one? (John 16:7)   And why a Comforter unless in the heart of God it was intended for us to be Comforted?  Sometimes I overhear Jane’s phone calls.  The essence of what I usually hear her saying is: In this world you will run smack dab into trouble, that’s guaranteed for all of us, but be of good cheer.  That cheer is best described from a Greek word that means to be of good courage.  That courage is based on His courage and having been that victorious for us.  For Jesus has overcome the world, and in Him, so have we.

Yes, ice cream can make us happy, but for how long?  Things can do that momentarily, but day-in day-out we’ll need more than that to become stable and be ‘the same in little and in much’.  The Good News of this Gospel is just that– Good News.  It’s not necessary to balance God’s Good News statement with a ‘but’ following it.  It’s always good news and it’s Good News in all situations.   Truly, the Good News applies in all our situations.  Jesus has sent His Spirit to encourage us that no matter what we find ourselves having to face, take courage and let the Comforter comfort.  He sent the Spirit to be a Helper to us, to rescue us when we need rescued and to ‘in-Joy’ the Life available in Christ.  He did this so that, right now, in the middle of the calamity and the world’s pressure, we can still be full of Gladness.  Not just the emoji type but the deep in our heart type. 

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters

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