Monday, November 15, 2010

Joy that lasts...

This weekend I was prompted to think about this concept of 'joy.' Let me be honest, in the past couple weeks, between challenges at work, at home, and battling pneumonia, my body and spirit were just wiped out. I sat at a stoplight on Friday and just let God know that I felt totally defeated. I don't usually "hear" from the Lord, but as I sat there that still voice inside me popped up almost immediately and said, "I know you FEEL that way, but you are NOT defeated." That started a weekend of some reflection and looking around my life.

The final result was one haunting question that I now share with you (please ask it honestly of yourself): Are you happy? Sounds simple, but it is not. Are you happy? And if you answer no, then what is standing in your way? Are you blaming others for your unhappiness? Are you blaming your circumstances? What became immediately visible to me as I looked around at friends and family was that if we weren't acting happy, or actually happy, it was reflected in how we saw everything and everyone. It is almost as if our subconscious says, "Hey if I'm not happy then I am going to make everyone else miserable too." How unfair.

Now as a Christian for many years I have always been around this idea of joy. It is one of the fruit of the Spirit; it is constantly referred to in Scripture as something that seems too good to be true, etc. But what does it really mean to by happy or joyful?

First, I have come to consider that Joy is a Choice. Psalm 51:12 says, "Restore to me the JOY or your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me." Some of the words in there make me believe that I can choose to turn my back on it, ask for God to restore it and it requires a willing spirit on my part to hold on to it. I can choose today whether I will live in JOY or not. Every day, every moment... What do I choose?

Second, I have come to consider that only God can Strengthen my joy. The Psalmist once again writes, "Sing for JOY to God our strength..." (81:1). I may want JOY and somehow I believe that I can make my own JOY, or that others are responsible for my JOY, or that my circumstances dictate my JOY. Once I choose it, I need to rely on God's strength to provide it and sustain it.

Finally, IT TAKES WORK! When Paul is writing to the Colossian church, he says, "We pray that you'll have the strength to stick to it over the long haul...It is strength that endures the unedurable and spills over into JOY..." (1:11). I sat at the stoplight pondering my circumstances, my health, my weakness, and my failures and effectively threw my hands in the air and was ready to give up. I was ready to give up on being happy or joyful.

Are you happy? And if you are not, then what is standing in your way? If you are honest, I think you'll find that answer most days is "me." I am standing in the way of God's plan for me to be happy. Not without trial, and not without challenges, but to live in the shadow of His Joy. It is a Joy that lasts!

Don't worry, be happy! :)