“Nothing is worth it if you’re not happy” said a post on Facebook the other day. This seems to be a commonly held view in society, but I beg to disagree. Let the world pursue happiness, Christians have something better – joy. Joy in the Lord is our sustenance. Unlike happiness, joy springs within us independent of circumstances.
Consider what Apostle Paul endured:
but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).
Yet Paul could declare:
. . . In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. (2 Corinthians 7:4).
James agreed with Paul:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4).
Joy enables us to consider the needs of others, taking the focus off of our own needs:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
We are called to a life of joy in the Spirit, not a life of happiness. I can testify that the season where the most people have commented on seeing my joy was during the season of greatest heartache. They weren’t seeing a feeling that came of circumstance, but an inner condition gifted by the Holy Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).
Joy may come with costs, but it far surpasses temporal happiness. Seek after intimacy with the Holy Spirit and receive His joy.
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Psalm 4:7).
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)