Joy and happiness are the fundamentals of human existence, and it is the hidden root of all human endeavours. A teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer, businessperson, and you name it, leaving his or her home for work each day; implicitly do so in search of these important components of life. This also applies to a newly wedded couple, or a parent taking care of his or her child or children. There is no human activity without joy and happiness as the main hidden reason for its pursuance.
Very regrettably, though of paramount necessity, the most sought after components of our daily life is very difficult to experience. This is so because as children of God, we possess them already; it is only for us to awaken it. Unfortunately, quite often, this knowledge eludes most Christians.
It is important to note that, as Christians, we are not immune to the world’s turbulence. On the contrary, we encounter more problems and difficulties than others, because through life’s thorny paths, God refines our character, transforming us according to his will, so that if we submit to him, he can use us to glorify his name.
From the day we accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and invite him into our live, Satan, who opposes all that stands for God, declares war against us—attacking us through our health, job, family, relationships, desires, et cetera. The good news is that irrespective of how intense the battle might seem, victory is undoubtedly ours, because Christ’s crucifixion has already won the battle for us. Nothing—absolutely nothing and nobody can ever succeed in fighting against us, except we so wish.
If we resist God’s calling, we will definitely encounter difficulties, because God knows what is best for us. If we make a wrong choice or decision, it is quite normal that we encounter problems. It is just like taking a wrong direction. For we have a merciful and loving father, kind and sympathetic, whenever we return to him—repenting from our disobedience, he is always there with open-arms to receive us back.
JOY AND HAPPINESS
Let us start with happiness.
WHAT IS TRUE HAPPINESS
Life’s experiences are not always happy. Nevertheless, the belief is that, we ought to strife for happiness—to do all that we can, to attain it, and make personal satisfaction our main goal. Solomon, writing about his own life, discovered that his wealth, power, wives, and accomplishments did not make him happy. Happiness is an elusive goal because people and circumstances change quickly. True and lasting happiness, however, comes from pleasing God. We cannot achieve happiness, but can only receive it through a right relationship with God, because only God knows what is really best for us, and he is the Creator and the giver of happiness.
WHAT IS JOY?
When things are going well, we feel elated; when hardships come; we sink into depression. True joy transcends these waves of circumstances. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. When our lives are intertwined with his, he helps us walk through adversity without sinking into lows and helps us manage prosperity, without moving into deceptive highs. The joy of living with Christ daily keeps us levelheaded, no matter how high or low our circumstances.
JOY VS HAPPINESS
True joy is far deeper than happiness; for it can be felt even when we are in the deepest troubles. Happiness is temporary because it is based on external circumstances, but joy is lasting because it is based on God’s presence within us. We can find joy and happiness as we contemplate God’s presence daily, both in our lives and around us.
While joy comes from knowing and trusting God, happiness comes because of pleasant circumstances or situations. Joy is constant as long as we trust God; happiness is unpredictable, for it fluctuates. Joy defeats discouragements; happiness covers it up. Joy is lasting; happiness is temporary.
HOW TO RECEIVE JOY AND HAPPINESS
1. CARING FOR OTHERS
The ultimate litmus test for having joy and happiness is how caring we are to others, because this is its only legitimate source. Hence, always helping everybody we encounter and even creating opportunities to render unpaid services to others, will surely give us great joy and happiness. By serving others, we obey God’s command that we should love others, and only action can demonstrate true love.
By experimenting with this, you will come to discover that this is the only genuine source of lasting happiness. In other words, the only source of lasting joy and happiness is forming the habit of making others happy—meaning, if we long for these two attributes, we must render un-rewarded services to others. The more we do this, the happier and joyous we will be, irrespective of the circumstances that we may be facing.
I do not mean only those who have done good to us, for this is rewarding them for the services to us. To bear fruit, we have to do it to everybody, even our enemies.
For this philosophy to work there is a condition that must be respected, without which we will be wasting our time and resources. We must not render unpaid services to people to show off or to boast—doing this will definitely rob us of our desired goal. The more we apply this principle, the happier, and joyous we will be. Somebody once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Once people know how much we care, they will pray for us, and the more they pray, the more we will be blessed. Joy and happiness always follows God’s blessings.
2. SCRIPTURAL MEDITAION
As we can hardly know our earthly father without having an intimate relationship with him, so also it is with our heavenly father. This is possible only through spending time studying and meditating on his Word. If we do this regularly, we will systematically get to understand his personality, and his boundless power that he has made available to us. Word will breathe life into our daily activities.
In the New Testament, meditation is emphasized in Paul’s admonition to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:15). In this verse, the Greek word for “Meditation,” meleta, means “To be careful,” or “To show care” in a matter. This suggests that meditation is more than just thinking good thoughts. It is paying attention to how we might specifically apply these lessons, after we have finished the meditation, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Meditation gives joy or inner peace and good health as pointed out in Psalm 119:93; it reads, “I will never lay aside your laws, for you have used them to restore my joy and health.” Isaiah 26:3 supports this as it states, “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord’s.” In other words, as we can never avoid difficulties in the world around us, with God, through his Words, we can still have perfect peace even while encountering turmoil. Supported by God’s unchanging love and mighty power, the surrounding calamities will never overwhelm us—natural or otherwise, even ones as destructive as the Tsunami disaster.
Besides meditation giving us joy and happiness, reflecting on the Word of God gives hope when there seem to be despair. The Psalmist realised this when he said in Psalm 94:19, “Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.”
Secondly, spending time meditating on the Scriptures gives tremendous wisdom and understanding that will affect all areas of our daily life. It is through meditation that we can rise above our natural selves and the world, seeing God’s plan in its proper perspective. Meditation is the mother of creativity.
HOW TO MEDITATE
1. Focusing on God’s person:
What does this mean? It is reflecting on our understanding of our Creator. Though at first glance this seems easy, on a deeper thought our impression is quite the opposite. There are many questions that spring up in our mind—questions such as, what do we actually know about God? What do we believe about God? What does the Bible say about God that touches our every day life? What great attributes of God can we better appropriate in our life each day?
On doing this, we discover that no one can get answer to most of our questions, except if we ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate our mind and give us wisdom and understanding. As we meditate regularly, we will be amazed to see how our understanding of God’s nature and His purpose both for us and for the world increases. Consequently, our confidence in ourselves and in His Words will also increase beyond our imagination. We will feel God’s joy and happiness in our hearts.
2. Focusing on God’s Word:
There is nothing as inspiring, encouraging, and motivating than meditating on God’s Word. With about thirty thousand of God’s promises in the Scriptures, irrespective of our circumstances there is always a promise that can reassure us. Besides all other promises, is it not comforting to know that God tells us not to be afraid, and that he will never abandon nor forsake us?
Personally, one of my most comforting promises of God is found in Jeremiah 29:11 – 13; it reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.” Whenever I am disappointed or going through a difficult time, as I am now, all the negative emotions that I had disappear when I read this. Joy and happiness, hope and optimism fill my heart. This has been a great source of inspiration to me.
If you form the habit of meditating on God’s promises in the Scriptures, especially those that correspond with your particular situation, you will realise that you can have joy and happiness as your permanent companion, no matter what your situation.
3. Focusing on God’s work:
Another angle that we could reflect on the Scriptures is God’s work. This is what the writer of Psalm 77:12 did when he wrote, “Those wonderful deeds are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about them.”
One does not need to travel far to see God’s wonderful handwork to meditate on, because his majestic creation is all around us. You can even start with your person. Have you ever imagined how complex our body is? It is made up of hundreds of different parts, elements, substances, cells, etc. Yet each of them and their respective roles are important and necessary to the functioning of our body.
We can also reflect on the sky with its magnificent asymmetric structure and components, whose nature is beyond human understanding; despite all the scientific researches and discoveries. We could meditate on countless things.
The more we ponder on God’s creation, the more we will discover how insignificant we are as compared to him. The main advantage of this method is it has the tendency of humbling us before God. Consequently, we will be blessed as Christ promised in the Beatitude, “Blessed are the humbled, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
4. Focusing on past victories:
Quite often, we forget all the wonderful things that God has done for us in the past. On reflecting on them our heart will never stop glorifying him, and we will never be scared of the future or any situation. Unfortunately, quite often we completely forget all that he has done for us, and concentrate only on the very few things that we lack. That is human nature.
Meditate on God’s previous blessings, guidance, goodness, protections, and mercies during difficult times. Why not follow Jeremiah as stated in Lamentation 3:21 – 23, it says, “Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness: his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.”
5. Praise and worship: With praise and worship we thank, adore, glorify, and magnify God’s grace, mercy, faithfulness, amazing love the list is infinite.
The effect of praise and worship is immediate, and it is astounding. Quite often, when I encounter a situation that seems to overwhelm me, all that I do, is to sing my favourite songs. Joy and happiness flow abundantly into my heart. My favourites are:
When I think of the goodness of Jesus
And all that he has done for me
My very soul shouts Alleluia
Thank you Lord for saving me
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
New every morning
Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord
Great is thy faithfulness
When you face a situation that seems impossible for you to handle, just sing one of your most favourite songs. You will feel tremendous joy and happiness pour into your heart. It will be like an opened tap whose outlet was blocked.
Tithing is one of the greatest secrets for joy and happiness that has eluded many, even most dedicated Christians. What is the relationship between tithing and joy and happiness, you may wonder. The answer comes from knowing its main purpose as it is stated in the second sentence of Deuteronomy 14:23, to “teach us always to put God first in our lives.”
The above-quoted passage makes it very clear—to put God first in our lives. We are to give God the first and best of what we earn. What we do first with our money shows what we value most. Giving the first part of our income to God immediately focuses our attention on him. It also reminds us that all that we have are his. Forming a habit of tithing regularly can keep God at the top of our priority list; giving us a proper perspective on everything else we have.
The benefits of tithing are two-fold. First, keeping God at the top of our priority list makes God keep us at his. Second, paying to support God’s work makes him promote all our endeavours. It is impossible to tithe habitually without being blessed beyond human comprehension. When this happens, joy and happiness will come naturally.
Forgiveness is the offspring of understanding and acceptance.
Like the other two components, it does not mean approval but forgetting unconditionally about the past, accepting the present as it is, and looking towards the future with optimism.
Forgiving others is to erase completely what the person has done to us from our mind. It is forgetting about retaliation, reparation, restitution, or revenge.
Besides that forgiveness releases the heavy burden of grudges from our mind, the Bible says, that God forgive us as we forgive others. No wise person could ever wish to face God’s anger that might be brought about by his or her unforgiving attitude.
Bitterness always accompanies unforgiveness, and in its presence, joy and happiness will be as far from us as East is from the West. By forgiving, we not only create room for joy and happiness, but we also invite them to take their place in our hearts.
I do not mean to say that it is easy to forgive. I quite understand how difficult it can be. Luckily there is a strategy, and that is to separate the problem from the perpetrator. We can do this by referring to the Scriptures, as it states that our troubles are not caused by flesh and blood, but by principalities. Most of our problems, including being offended by people are spiritual warfare, rather than the doing of the people concerned. By reasoning this way, and with prayers, it will be easier to forgive.
I pray that Almighty God, who called us to serve him, will grant us all that we need, including filling our hearts with joy and happiness, so that we may serve him with assiduity, in order that his name will be glorified, in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen!
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