Sunday, July 25, 2010
Recently, someone asked me why our lives are filled with so much struggle and pain, and not with an unending supply of joy and happiness. Now, initially, this seemed like a reasonable question, one marked with a simple answer pulled from my concordance of scriptures. However, the question stuck with me for a while. One of the biggest issues that I had to conquer on my faith journey was the debate between joy and happiness. Charles Stanley said, “In order to understand the life God desires for us, we need to know the difference between joy and happiness. Both can be defined as gladness, delight, and pleasure in something, but happiness has external cause. When circumstances are enjoyable, we are naturally happy, but when things take a downward turn, so do our attitudes. Joy, on the other hand, has an internal cause and is not dependent upon outside conditions. As believers, we can keep our contentment in good times and bad because our delight is in the Lord, not in our fluctuating circumstances.” In other words, our joy is in the Lord; however, happiness is fleeting. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances.” It wasn’t until recently that I recognized the word “learned” in this verse. I have always focused on what seemingly impossible task this verse presented. However, when you recognize that Paul had to learn to be content, and understand that this is also God’s expectation of us, it is easier to grasp.
It is easy to be cheerful when things are going our way, but how can we do this when times of suffering and difficulty arise? James 1:2-4 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We are not rejoicing in the event that is causing our pain, but instead at the outcome. Trials challenge our faith in God’s wisdom, goodness or power. However, His word reassures us that His purposes are good, and if we endure with trust and joy, we will lack nothing.
If each day has become a struggle, and your circumstances are dragging you down, by faith claim the joy of the Lord. Begin by living in His promises instead of under your circumstances. Make a decision to rejoice in Him, regardless of your situation. I fully believe that in time, that by making this decision, your feelings will follow.
“...Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” – Nehemiah 8:10