The first time my husband handed me our very first baby girl, my heart swelled so much my eyes overflowed. The second time he handed me our second baby girl, with bright blue twinkling eyes, happy tears - as she would call them today - made deep tracks down my cheeks. I remember all of the first steps, words, hugs, and birthdays – all of the laughter and all of the love. Happiness happens. Unlike Biblical joy, happiness comes and goes, but it does assuredly come again. Jesus said we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33), but He did not say our lives would be void of happiness.
Undoubtedly, life upon the surface of this earth comes with its fair share of pain, injustice, heartache, and just plain heartbreak. Thirteen years after my husband handed me our very first baby girl for the very first time, we were rushing her to the ER at the nation’s best children’s hospital. There have been stinging tears and scary moments, helpless feelings and deep hurt, but the pathway to happiness can be found in the pursuit of life within the love of Christ Jesus. Happiness is found in following Him. And even when it fades, the enduring joy of Jesus remains.
Psalm 1 begins the poetic book of songs by mention of those who delight in the Lord. They “meditate on his law day and night.” From the first time I held my first baby to the first time we rushed her to the ER, I can testify to this truth. I delight in the Lord, regardless of my situation, because I trust in who He is. It’s a simple truth. It’s the most complex truth. But He is the only solid Truth there is to stand on. Happiness is an amazing emotion, but the underlying joy which never fades sustains us until the next burst of laughter, celebratory high-fived celebration, or incredible milestone moment.
Joel 2:21 reads: “Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things.” The Message paraphrase says, “Fear not, Earth! Be glad and celebrate! GOD has done great things.” The Bible is not remiss about the suffering God’s people experience on this earth, both in ancient days up to the current generation. But Scripture encourages us not to linger in the somber moments too long.
Grief is an inevitable and necessary process, but there is light at the end of every heartbreaking and gut-twisting tunnel. We need only to flip through the pages of Scripture to read of God’s redeeming and restoring work for and in His people over and over again. He is rescuing them, renewing them, and encouraging them. He loves them. “The good news is that eternal happiness is not something we must wait for,” Rev. Kyle Norman explains. “In God’s grace, we are invited to experience this in our lives today. God wishes to bless us with the happiness that is rooted in the spirit abiding in us.”
The best news: God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be eternally. He doesn’t change. He is still rescuing, renewing, encouraging, and loving His people – His chosen ones – His adopted family, each and every one of us. He litters our lives with happy moments, if only we will pray for the perspective to see and appreciate them. Through Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit in us is faithful to remind us to look for God’s hand in the happy moments of our lives.
As the Spirit works to transform us, Paul writes of the gifts He matures in our hearts and souls: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These attributes help us to embrace happiness in our lives, and trust when it fades that these things will remain.
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A cheerful heart spreads like wildfire to everyone surrounding us! But a crushed spirit often hides. When we are crushed, the temptation to isolate ourselves is great. It’s a weapon of the enemy. Lies and isolation. His two main methods of attack haven’t changed over the centuries. He just uses what we’ve got now to lead us down the same hopeless trails. Crushed infers utter defeat, meaning to press or squeeze with a force that destroys and deforms. But cheerful means to be in good spirits, pleasant, bright, hearty or ungrudging.
Joy differs from happiness in that it cannot be stolen and does not fade. The brightness of happiness is a product of joy. It’s being strengthened and sanctified by the Holy Spirit as we live our lives in pursuit of Christ Jesus. We are sealed, and the Lord is our shield, so that when happiness fades, joy fends off any spiraling thoughts threatening to lead us down a side-trail of hopelessness.
“God wants us to be happy!” Robert Hamphsire explains. “As paradoxical as it sounds, if you want to find happiness for yourself, then happiness cannot be your goal. Instead, happiness (the feeling) and joy (the state of being) comes as a by-product of selflessness.” The enemy cannot touch the joy we have in Jesus. He is our Joy.
Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Rejoice means to be glad; take delight. The original Greek translation of the word rejoice adds to be well, thrive, to the definition. If we return to Psalms 1, delight means “a high degree of pleasure of enjoyment; joy; rapture.” Rapture is ecstatic joy or delight. Ecstatic is an intense, overpowering emotion. And the original Greek translation of the word delight adds desire and longing.
The richness of these word choices in the two Scriptures is not coincidental. Paul meant to convey a feeling of rejoicing, in good times and bad. The word joy can be heard in the word rejoice. Scripture tells us the path to exit doldrum feelings is to rejoice in the Lord, regardless of our circumstances. It activates the joy living in us! “Seeking guidance for life in God’s law rather than in the deliberations of the wicked,” the NIV Study Bible explains of Psalm 1:2, “meditates on his law.”
The path to happiness is meditating on God’s Word. Jesus is the Living Word of God. John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In Christ, we will experience so many happy moments. God wants us to be happy. He has plans for us which are more than we can ask for or imagine. But the sustaining joy of Jesus is more powerful than any wave of happiness. It’s supernatural, it’s amazing – it’s the glory of God taking up residence in our very hearts.
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Meg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.