Today I continue my series on Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord.
How many of you did your homework? For those who did, I would be interested to hear what “happy” thing you did and why it made you happy. You can leave me a comment if you’re brave enough to share. To others, did you just avoid the whole activity because you thought it might stress you out more than make you happy? Believe it or not some people even avoid “happy” activities because it can be an added stressor in their lives. Don’t believe me? I know people who find Christmas the most stressful time of year…
I love dinner parties but they stress me out planning them! I’ve nearly had a nervous breakdown planning a child’s birthday party…(I told you yesterday I was an A-type personality!)
Sometimes it would be so easy to avoid those activities but let’s face it, avoiding stressful activities, whether they give us happiness or pain is pretty impractical.
Now I don’t know about you, but I would say that this would be a constant struggle for me to try to avoid anything in my life that would cause me pain, hurt, distress or upset. In fact, I would think this is an impossible goal…and yet many men and women in this world have embraced this philosophy.
Ever heard the expression “If it feels good, do it.”? We live in anything but an altruistic society, where the pursuit of happiness is entirely centered around one’s own wants, desires, and needs. Just look at today’s advertising. It is entirely centered on what we should buy so we will be happy in today’s world: the cosmetic industry alone is a 30 billion dollar industry with a 20% growth rate each year! We need to ask ourselves: can happiness be found bottled in a L’oreal jar, or found under the hood of a sport’s car, or found at the bottom of a yoghurt cup?…and yet that is exactly what the world would have us believe. If we buy this or that, if we change this or that about ourselves, if we only think positively and never negatively, we will be truly happy. It is a deception, it is a falsehood and unfortunately we buy into it over and over and over again, and for a time we may be happy, but it is fleeting, then we need to buy something else or do something else, or try something else… and that’s why the commercials never stop and why we are never completely satisfied and why we are never completely happy.
JOY is different. Whereas happiness is described as a buoyant emotion that results from momentary plateaus of well-being. Joy is bedrock stuff. Joy is the confidence that operates irrespective of our moods. Joy is the certainty that all is well, however we feel. Joy isn’t a feeling based on circumstances, Joy is an attitude based on our relationship with God.
Joy is the happy state that results from knowing and serving God. A number of Greek and Hebrew words are used in the Bible to convey the ideas of joy and rejoicing. We have the same situation in English with such nearly synonymous words as joy, happiness, pleasure, delight, gladness, merriment, felicity, and enjoyment. The words JOY and REJOICE are the words most often used to translate the Hebrew and Greek words into English. JOY is found over 150 times in the Bible. If such words as “joyous” and “joyful” are included, the number comes to over 200. The verb “rejoice” appears well over 200 times.
Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure. The Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our word “hedonism”, the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4)
The Bible warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment. Let’s read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. This is the sad testimony of one (Solomon) who sought to build his life on pleasure-seeking. The search left him empty and disillusioned.
Pleasures Are Meaningless 1 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Proverbs 14:13 offers further insight into this way of life, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.” Cares, riches and pleasures rob people of the possibility of fruitful living (Luke 8:14). Pleasure often enslaves people in a vicious cycle of addiction (Titus 3:3). The self-indulgent person, according to 1 Tim. 5:6, is dead while seeming still to be alive.
Here is some more homework for you:
- 1. What are things that you strive for under the sun?
- 2. What pleasures (rewards) do you get from striving for them?
- 3. Are you happy in your pursuit of them? Why or why not?
(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)