Happiness and Joy

Several years ago when Noah was still swishing around in diapers, I used to love to watch a show on TLC called A Birth Story. The show’s premise was to document an expecting couple’s experiences as they prepared for and finally delivered their child. I was drawn to the program because I loved to “meet” different couples from all walks of life and discover how bringing a baby into the world unites us all. Plus, the babies were just too cute to resist! At the end of every episode, the producers would inevitably ask the new parents what their hopes and dreams were for their infant son or daughter. Almost 100% of the time, the new mom and dad would answer with something along the lines of, “We just want our child to grow up to be happy.”

Though the parents were obviously loving and well-intentioned in their response, my head would fall into my hands in frustration and sadness. Yet another couple and consequently another beautiful child were going to miss the purpose of life.

Which brings me to the purpose of this writing…

Just what is the point of it all? Why are we here?

I can assure you that the purpose of life is not personal happiness. Through His grace, the Lord has helped me to realize that chasing happiness is an entirely selfish pursuit. When we pursue happiness, we put our wishes, hopes, and dreams first. This is the very definition of selfish living. Predictably, when our entire motivation for life is selfish at its core, we end up disappointed, disillusioned, and yes, even angry when our wants and needs aren’t met exactly how we had hoped. The current divorce rate, the rise of Pfizer stock, and the ever increasing length of the self help aisle at the local bookstore prove my point.

There’s a better way to do life! Wise Jesus tells us how to find life fulfillment in Matthew 6:33:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

In these simple words, the Lord defines our purpose. First, God instructs us to seek His Kingdom. What is the Lord’s Kingdom like? In Jesus’s Kingdom, love and service to others reign. Papa God works tirelessly to heal and restore broken relationships. Christ’s mission on earth was to reconcile our broken relationship with God. So, as Christ’s disciples, we too should be about our Father’s business of love, service, and reconciliation.

Secondly, Jesus teaches His disciples to seek His righteousness. We are to thirst for Christ’s goodness. His purity far surpasses any good that can be drummed up through mere human effort. It’s holy. It’s magnificent and white hot in it’s beauty. When I look around this fallen, damp, and chaotic world, boy do I ever wish for Jesus’s purity of heart. Oh that I would be like Jesus! My heart burns in my chest when I think about the wonder of my Savior. He is altogether lovely and beautiful. I yearn to be daily transformed into the luminous creature that He has called me to be. I passionately pray to stick out not because of a bad attitude or because of the things that I have acquired and accomplished in life, but to break forth like shocking lightning in a black sky because He has molded me into His image. Full of grace and truth.

In short, we are to crave holiness, not happiness.

Incredibly though, when we seek Christ’s kingdom and His righteousness before all things, something miraculous happens. Contained in the final part of Matthew 6:33 is a promise. When we give God primary position in our lives, the Lord is faithful to give us what our sanctified hearts wish for. Because Abba is a good Father, He delights in lavishing His love and blessings on us. However, just as any good parent on earth does not want to spoil their children, Papa God does not want spoiled sons and daughters. So, we have to learn selfless love and righteous living before He can give us the desires of our heart.

We can’t leave God out of the equation and expect to find happiness. We. just. Can’t. This was why I was so saddened by the couples’ answers on A Baby Story. They missed it. They failed to realize or understand our purpose for being and were setting up their lovely children for lives of emptiness and oftentimes misery.

Personally, John chapter 15 is my most treasured chapter in all of Scripture. Christ’s last words to us before He suffered and died are so precious, elegant, impassioned, and important. For the record, my paltry commentary on these verses seems trite. Therefore, I would lovingly advise you to read Christ’s beautiful Words without my thoughts interrupting them and then bask in their profound perfection through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Soak in John 15 in its entirety when you can.

However, for the purposes to this writing, I want to point to a particular portion of Jesus’s beautiful speech:

In John 15:11-13, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Here Jesus is speaking of joy. His joy.

What is joy? Joy is something that transcends happiness. Joy is strength in troubled waters. Joy sustains us through pain and disappointments. Joy wraps around our bones and sinews to buttress our body in the wind and heartbreak. Joy helmets our mind so that seasons of doubt cannot capsize our faith. Joy is shining steel in the rain. Joy is knowing Christ’s love and the power of His resurrection.

How do we find joy? Christ tells us in John 15: by loving each other as Christ loves us. We find precious solid joy, not flimsy fleeting happiness, through selfless living.