For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV)
If I were to ask all of you if you’d like to be happy, how many would say “No”? My guess is the vast majority of folks would say, “Absolutely! Who doesn’t want to be happy?”
The idea of being “happy” rises some debate in certain Christian circles. As if happiness runs counter to being a Christian. As if there isn’t enough suffering in this world.
Yet, happiness is really just an emotion. It has no real staying power. It gives us a boost – often a much needed one at that! When life is hard, nothing can break the tension like a good, hearty laugh.
But… should “happy” truly be our goal? This is where the debate begins. If, by “happy”, one means seeking to feel elated and self-absorbed in our own contentment, then the answer is “no”. A life pursued only to make oneself happy is a life wasted.
If by happy one means joyous, at peace, fulfilled in Christ… then by all means, Yes!
We so often confuse joy and peace for happiness. But really, they are distinctly different.
Joy exists in good times and bad, times of ease of seasons of struggle. The same with peace. This is because the source of our joy and peace, our strong inner contentment, lies in Jesus Christ. Not in our circumstances. Not in everything being perfect or going our way. Happiness depends on such things.
James hit the nail on the head when he wrote:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2 (ESV)
You see, joy and peace have staying power. We can rest in the Lord, keeping our joyful calm in the midst of any storm. Life’s cares will rob us of happiness, because “happy” is a fleeting, conditional feeling. Joy and peace are God-given fruit, deeply rooted and immovable in the life of those who put their whole trust in God.
The idea of a trouble-free life is very appealing. But it is also unrealistic. The least favorite promise that Jesus ever made was “in this world you will have trouble.” Thankfully, He followed that with “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus told us this to set our expectations right, that we have peace in Him, instead of spinning our wheels looking for constant pleasure.
It is in life’s troubles that we grow. It is when things get tough that we can cry out to God for help with the full assurance that He hears us. He’s always with us. He loves us. He has us in His grip.
And no amount of “happiness” can equal the joy and peace of knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior. So, today, whatever you are facing, whatever trials are pursuing you, whatever pain you’re dealing with, whatever has you anxious or worried or troubled… I want to challenge you to give up your troubles to God. Go to Jesus. Make the conscious decision to trust the Lord and take Him at His Word.
Accept that He loves you and you are His child.
Accept that your life is in His hands and He knows far better than you or anyone else what you truly need.
Seek God first. Rest in His great strength and mercy and grace and love. And in doing so, find what true, lasting “happiness” really looks like.
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