20171010

Why God is the Difference between Happiness and Joy

“He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” - Jim Elliot

I can still remember the year when Pok√©mon cards were all the rage at my elementary school. The videogame phenomenon had taken a literal stranglehold on my generation. Kids would buy, sell, and trade cards while in line for the bus or covertly during classes. Some would even skip meals, hording their lunch money as a way to purchase more behind their parent’s backs. I was no different, and I actually amassed quite the notable collection. But if you were to ask me where they were today, I honestly couldn’t tell you.

Like all fads, whatever happiness these cards gave me eventually faded. 

I lost interest and moved on to the next thing. It’s a pretty common story. How many of us remember Disco, Beanie Babies, Boom Boxes, Reebok Pumps, or expensive pagers? Looking back, it seems bizarre that so many of us would give our time and money to things which would eventually break or be forgotten. Yet, scripture makes it abundantly clear that humans have always had serious happiness problem (Ecclesiastes 1), and a recent article from Relevant Magazine is asking readers if they’re searching for joy in all the right places.

Writer Austin Bonds reflects on how even now, Christians attach too much of their happiness to material possessions. While it’s no sin to take pleasure in a new car or nice pair of cloths, we must always remember these feelings are temporary. Happiness never lasts for long, but joy can endure even in the darkest times. He writes;
“In a parable about a rich fool, Jesus said, ‘Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’ (Luke 12:15). Possessions make us happy, but their pleasure is brief. I like Honda Civics and Netflix and running shoes and peanut M&M’s and college football. These simple treats provide a measure of happiness; they are material blessings from a bountiful God who loves me deeply.” 
“Happiness in Christ, on the other hand, is eternal. It has no shelf life or odometer or midsole that wears out. Stuff needs replacement. Christ is irreplaceable. The apostle Peter puts it so eloquently, stating, ‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls’” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
This may seem like a pretty common lesson for believers, but it’s telling how many of us are guilty of this mistake. It’s easy to lose sight of what you have while yearning for what you want. We forget the many blessings God has given us, while pining for something which will never make us whole. The end result is a mad game where we habitually try to complete ourselves when only God can do that for us. We try to prolong our happiness when we could be embracing joy.

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable about a pearl of great price,
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:45-46.
The joy we find in God is worth more than any possession because above all, it endures! It does not rust or break, and we will never find something to replace it. Even when times are bad, we can take solace in the knowledge that this amazing love is forever ours, and that is truly something to be happy about!

[written by Ryan Duncan