Lauren just wasn’t happy, and often she complained to my friend about all the lousy stuff going on in her life.
You see, Lauren had money problems, health problems and pet problems and just listening to all of them was bringing my friend down too.
And so I prayed, but when I did – I began to wonder about Lauren.
I mean, yeah, the events in Lauren’s life were not good, I got that. But if her outlook on life was dependent on what happened to her, well, I could see a downward spiral hitting some pretty high speeds.
In my dictionary, I see that one of the definitions of “happy” is: “delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.”
So when things go bad in our lives as they tend to do and we experience problems like Lauren’s, I guess that gives us good enough reason to be unhappy people right?
I don’t think this is the way God intended us to live. And if we’re bent on huddling under the same black cloud as Lauren, I think we need to find out what’s really keeping us there.
Letting our feelings be controlled by our circumstances can put us on a gut wrenching roller coaster.
If good things happen, we’re up and if bad things happen we’re down.
If really good things happen, we’re way, way up and if really bad things happen we’re way, way down.
Nauseated yet? I know I am.
And the thing is, we’re not the only ones affected by our mood swings. Our family members, friends and coworkers are impacted too.
Preaching out of the book of Malachi, our pastor last Sunday said some things about happiness that were pretty hard hitting. “God does not care about your happiness,” he said. “Happy is temporary. God cares about something way more important than happy -- he cares about your joy.”
Using a familiar scripture, our pastor went on to say: “It doesn’t say that the ‘happy’ of the Lord is gonna be my strength, doesn’t it? It says the ‘joy’ of the Lord is gonna be my strength.”
Hmmm, I liked what my pastor said. And no, I don’t believe that God wants us to be unhappy with our lives. I think his point was that God wants us to go for something deeper – something that’s not so easily swayed by the winds of adversity – something called “joy.”
Although the words “joy” and “happy” are often thought to mean the same things, I’ve always understood that “joy” delves deeper into the human spirit.
“I recently heard a great explanation of the difference between happiness and joy.
"Happiness is dependent on outward circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is internal and constant.
“As believers, we have an unlimited source of joy through Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be as concerned about happiness which is dependent on outward circumstances. We should have joy in the Lord based on an internal constant – our relationship with Him.”
Job had every reason to be happy. He was wealthy, had a fine family and as far as we know enjoyed good health. But, if you’ve read the book, you know that in just a short period of time, all of that was stripped from him.
Bad things happened, really bad things that took everything he had going for him away.
In just one day, Job lost his livestock and all his children were killed. Later, he was inflicted with great physical suffering.
The Bible tells us that as Job sat among the ashes scraping his skin because of his painful sores, his wife told him to “Curse God and die”(Job 2:9b)!
Now I know that Job wasn’t happy anymore. How could he be? Most of the good things in his life were suddenly gone. But still Job chose not to curse God or even die.
Now it might be a stretch here, but I believe that Job may have had some joy left – an “internal constant” that remained.
Because he says this about God: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;” (Job 13:15a).
Are you in “the pursuit of happiness today”? I understand that, and I know that God cares about the things we care about. But we need to be careful not to serve the false “god of happy” as my pastor says, but trust instead that the “joy in the Lord” will keep you surefooted.
No matter what happens today.
*Lauren’s name has been changed to protect her privacy
Here are some Bible verses that'll help you on your journey:
James 1:2-3 New International Version
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
2 Corinthians 7:4 New International Version (NIV)
I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.