It’s Monday Grace!
Two hundred and forty five years ago our forefathers wrote that the Creator gave each person three “unalienable rights.” In the Declaration of Independence they wrote that the government has a duty to protect us as we exercise our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
We might wonder these days whether our government remembers that or whether it was ever reasonable to expect it, but it set our nation apart from many nations of history where only certain ones had these rights. And it gave us permission to seek these things, permission the founders believed came from God.
Do we have a right to be happy? Did God give us the right to be happy? How can we be happy when there is so much evil around us? When life gets difficult, and it does for almost everyone, how can we be happy? We suffer many things in life—loss, pain, injustice—and the very definition of suffering seems to include unhappiness. While we may not suffer as much as we could, God does not seem to keep all suffering from us.
Someone once told me that happiness was a fleeting thing based on the moment. I didn’t like that at the time, and I don’t particularly like it now. But I do understand it. It seems to cheapen happiness, to limit it to laughter or mirth. I see happiness as a deeper thing, something directly connected to joy.
The founding fathers of our country were deep thinkers and serious scholars. They understood happiness to be more than something fleeting and fickle. They meant joy of the heart. They meant the pleasant satisfaction that comes with peace and security and love. They understood that there would be sad times and angry times and confused times in our lives. They also understood that we would want to be able to get out of those negative times to something better. That’s what they meant by happiness.
Maybe it is better for us to use the word, “joy,” to express this feeling of the heart. Maybe the idea of happiness has been reduced to something less.
Then, I want joy!
I want to be able to face tomorrow with joy in my heart. I want to be able to look back on the day, whatever events transpired, and have joy. Joy is connected with peace and security and purpose and so much more. I want joy.
And there is nothing wrong with wanting what I am supposed to have.
When the world seems to be falling apart, a smile and a kind word warm the heart with this joy that reminds us of hope and promise and peace. When the burden grows heavy, the laughter of children lifts our spirits so that we see out of the pit and enjoy the sunshine. The beauty of the flowers and the singing of the birds remind us that there is good for us in the heart of our Lord.
We are called to be people of joy as believers. We have experienced the love of God! But we don’t have to manufacture this joy. Some people seem to condemn us for not feeling joyful. So, we put on our phony smiles and proclaim joy. No, not that.
We find our joy in the presence of our Lord. Just like we find the smile of a friend or lover to be healing and uplifting, when we look to Him we see Him smiling at us. He loves us!
Don’t accept the message of legalism and performance that would have you discouraged and ashamed. That message bows the back and makes us feel unwanted and unworthy. Our Lord wants us and has made us worthy.
We are people of joy because there is joy in the heart of our Lord as He considers us. Never accept any message that says less than that.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.