It’s Monday Grace!
I remember a teacher who said that the real goal of the Christian should not be happiness but joy. Joy, he said, came to the believer despite the things going on in the world. There’s something to that, of course, but this teacher then proceeded to wipe away most of the happiness of the Christian life. People under this teaching often said things like, “I know it is God’s will for me if it makes me miserable.” “If I am unhappy in this life, I know I will be joyful in the next.” One man spoke truth from the heart when he said, “Every time I go to one of these conferences, I come away feeling worse.”
The idea of this teaching is that happiness is tied to the moment, to the circumstances. “Happenstance,” the teacher said, “is temporary. Joy is forever.” Suffering today leads to more joy tomorrow. He suggested that suffering was the primary condition of the Christian life. Unhappiness. Then, joy later.
Joy without happiness is like clouds without rain. What’s the point?
Oh, I know that joy can be something deeper than our circumstances. In the midst of trouble, even chronic and worrisome trouble, there can be joy in our hearts. To know the love of Jesus is to know joy.
But our joy is the source of our happiness. Even if happiness is tied to our circumstances (which it does not need to be) we can reach back to the joy in our hearts and find happiness again. We overcome the suffering when we remember our joy.
And someone says, “That’s nice. Not very realistic, but nice. I wish it were true.”
But you and I have seen the truth of this. We have known many people who have gone through very tough times, times that would challenge anyone’s happiness, and we have heard their words of joy and seen the smiles on their faces. They fight cancer, knowing that their battle may be futile, trudging through the indignities and pains of treatments, and they are gracious and positive and thankful to the people around them. They not only find happiness for themselves, but they have enough to share with others.
This is the legacy of grace. When I know that I have nothing to do to measure up to God’s standards, that Jesus has done it all, I can relax. The pain of the moment cannot deny or destroy the truth. I am deeply loved, fully accepted, and greatly blessed by Jesus.
I often tell my congregation that we have it made. Whatever happens in this cruel world, there is good for us in Jesus. This world is not our home. The things we gather and protect will all be left behind. The broken relationships with other believers will all be healed. Nothing, not even our own stupidity, can snatch us out of the hand of the Lord who loves us. And that makes all of us smile.
Let Jesus restore the joy of your heart with His grace. And let the joy of your heart restore your happiness in challenging times. The Christian life is not one of suffering (even though we may suffer), it is a life of joy.