On having it all...finding happy

Day 2 – On having it all...finding happy

It was in my late twenties that I learned the lesson of happiness versus Joy. Real joy, I mean. 
Joy spelled J-E-S-U-S. 

Unchanging joy in the midst of struggle and hardship. I remember learning this via a text I was teaching the youth group in a study written for youth. It pierced me squarely in the heart at the ripe old age of about 28. Maybe this was the time in my life when I could most clearly hear it. Maybe it had been spoken to me many times before and I was only just then able to listen. Whatever the life challenge at the time, I began to look around me and hear with a fresh heart the reality of a culture obsessed with happiness.

Do what makes you happy. Go where you are happy. Love the one who makes you happy. These are the voices of a thousand commercials, the endless rattle of the daytime talk shows, the lure of movies and novels and worldliness that leaves us wanting.

Then, I started studying Scripture more and more and I found another voice. Jesus tells us in His Word that He certainly wants you to find Joy in Him and only Him. But also, and this may be controversial...He wants you to have both. Happiness matters to Him.

Whoa now! I have been like Solomon, you say. I have searched the world over. I have searched for happiness, I have worked for happiness. I have spent money to get happy. I have climbed the ladder, to get happy, and I have learned that the world has little to offer, only Jesus brings the True to True Happiness.

Again, I would tell you that you are correct. However, if you read Ecclesiastes 3:11-14, I think you will find a better answer to the joy v. happiness battle. Let's read the passage below -
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 

The God-breathed words of King Solomon in verse 12 tells us, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live”

Note the word choice here - “to be joyful”, not have joy. The kind of joy recommended here is an action. The Hebrew word in the passage is lismowah (minus critical accent marks here). The word is from the root samach, which can mean a myriad of things from rejoice to make merry, to take pleasure in, and my favorite “give happiness.”

The root word can be a subject, an adjective, but in every Biblical text this word, lismowah, is translated as an action word. With my limited Hebrew knowledge, this tells me that lismowah was meant to be an action. Most translations use a form of joy or rejoice, but the NIV sinks in deep for this discussion by using the disctinctive translation – be happy.

While we must take Ecclesiastes as a part within the whole of Scripture, we also can not discount it. Psalm 106 also uses this exact word in verse 5 below:
Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
    or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
    who do righteousness at all times!
Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
    help me when you save them,
that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
    that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
    that I may glory with your inheritance.

This is a long song that tells the story of the generations of the Israelites turning from the Lord and ignoring His work, dishonoring Him. But it is also a psalm that proclaims the forgiveness, the pity, the mercy of the Lord to His people on earth. It is a psalm of unchanging joy, but it is also a psalm of the experience of that joy, and the overflowing happiness that is found in a life lived for the Lord. It tells the story of the Lord rushing to His people's aid, praise to a Lord who physically and supernaturally fends off nations and keeps His people from destruction. A psalm of the Lord giving happy for the time, along with joy unchanging.

The problem with our view is not happy versus joy. The problem comes in when we try to find happy in things that are opposed to God. We will not find happy in tawdry tv. We will not find happy in a man that sets God on a shelf. We will not find happy in a big home with lots of things and no people to enjoy them. Happiness in itself is not inherently evil. Happiness itself is a good gift of God, and we find it in oh so many things.

Happy looks a lot more like Jesus in our hearts, pouring out in a million different ways. Your context is different than mine. How does your heart pour over with happiness, real and genuine happy, as well as joy, to the world around you? Happy isn't something you'll experience all the time. That isn't the goal. It's not what we were made for – happy, happy, and more happy. Sometimes, as Ecclesiastes is always quick to point out, our season is simply not happy. It is Joy unchanging, but while a particular season may not contain a whole lot of happy, other seasons will, in abundance!

Sit back, sister. Let the Spirit do His work. Ask Him to fill you with joy and to give you happiness, in its season. Take pleasure in the little things, even in a dark season, because you know they are provided by One who loves you infinitely.

Lord, I don't know the season of each of these wonderful women. I ask you to pour out your mercies new every day, that you raise up your Spirit to work in them in a new way, each day. Lord, thank you for the things that make us happy, for snowflakes and ice cream, for warm sun soaked skin and children laughing, for wine around a table of good friends, and a quiet moment spent alone. We praise you, Lord, that you give us Joy and you bring us happiness. Help us to always rejoice in the name of Your son, Jesus. In His name, Amen.

Discussion questions:
What things make you happy?
What people make you happy and why?
What are your thoughts on happiness and joy?
Share a prayer of rejoicing and praise for any of the things and people that God has given you in this season.

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