Today is a day that I could have slept in, but alas I woke up at 3:47 a.m. I could have bemoaned waking up so early. Instead I’ve chosen to have my coffee in peace and time alone with the Lord. I feel refreshed and content, and dare I say it: joyful!
I’ve talked a lot recently about depression. I’ve felt rudderless for quite some time (since the passing of my parents with whom I spent a great deal of time in caring for them). The anniversaries of their deaths, birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day and more have had me focus on what I no longer have. This week I have actively sought connections with friends and my family, and most importantly with my Lord.
The word “happiness” evokes visions of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, strolling hand in hand with the one you love, being surprised on your birthday, responding with unbridled laughter to a comedian, or vacationing in an exotic locale. Everyone wants to be happy; we make chasing this elusive ideal a lifelong pursuit: spending money, collecting things, and searching for new experiences. But if happiness depends on our circumstances, what happens when the toys rust, loved ones die, health deteriorates, money is stolen, and the party is over? Often happiness flees and despair sets in.
In contrast to “happiness” stands “joy”. Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives–that He will be there no matter what. Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ.
The letter Paul wrote to the church at Philippi emphasizes the real joy of the Christian life. The concept of rejoicing or joy appear sixteen times in four chapters, and the pages radiate this positive message culminating in the exhortation to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (v 4:4)
In a life dedicated to serving Christ, Paul had faced excruciating poverty, abundant wealth, and everything in between. He even wrote this joyful letter from prison. Whatever the circumstances, Paul had learned to be content. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13) He learned to find real joy as he focused all his attention and energy on knowing Christ (v 3:8) and obeying Him (vv 3:12-13).
If you are feeling unhappy, I highly recommend spending time in the book of Phillipians. “Pray with joy…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (vv 4b, 6) This morning I renewed my mind in His Word. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (vv 3:13-14) If we can learn to find our satisfaction in Christ alone, we would withstand so much of what the enemy hurls our way.
Source: Life Application Study Bible (NIV) and Bible Gateway