Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord (3)
Perhaps last day’s homework assignment left you a bit wary, questioning why you do some of the things you do. Sometimes it’s good to get a healthy perspective on things. Some of you may have thought, “I have to work to support my family. It’s not an activity that makes me happy but I have to do it anyway.” It is absolutely true. As I tried to tell my sixteen year old daughter when she balked at doing her homework by saying, “I will never, ever use this Math after high school so why bother doing it in the first place?” I said, “You just gotta do what you gotta do”. (I’m thinking of having a t-shirt made up with that saying!)
It proves my point. If we base our happiness on doing activities, or getting “stuff”, we will be quickly disappointed. Sometimes we just “gotta do what we gotta do” to survive. It may not make us happy…and here it comes…it can be a JOYFUL experience. How?
You do not need “stuff” to be joyful. In fact the Bible points out that JOY can be achieved in good times AND bad times. JOY is not dependant on the circumstances of life. JOY is a constant. Joy can be experienced in the middle of a very negative experience, but it can only occur if God is the focus and not on the circumstance itself.
Let’s read Romans 5:1-5. Paul tells us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Someone asked me once how it is that some people can handle personal tragedies so well while other people seem to fall apart when hardships befall them. Let me give a few examples:
In 1986, my husband, Charles worked for an oil company about the same time the federal government brought in some oil royalties that saw the bottom drop out of the oil industry in Calgary. The result was massive layoffs and my husband found himself without a job as did a few men and women from our church family then. We did all the practical things to get by: downsize, modify our budget etc. etc., but one thing we agreed upon was that we would not stop tithing to our church and we would focus on God as we remembered our life verse from Proverbs 16:9….”You may make your plans but the Lord determines your steps”. We watched in awe as God opened doors and led Charles to new career ventures. It was an awesome time in our lives because we knew that God was in control and we leaned on the promise that He would never leave us or forsake us. Certainly there were times of worry and certainly we had to modify our lifestyle, but we grew closer to God through the experience as never before. On the flip side of this: another man from our church who lost his job the same time Charles did crumbled. He stopped attending church, he ended up losing his home; his wife ended up leaving him. We completely lost touch with him and to this day I do not know what became of him. I don’t know why we seemed to handle the upset better than he did but I think it is because we did not focus on our circumstance, we focused on God. We found true joy in following God through this very trying circumstance.
I can’t help but think about some other families who seem to know what it means to rejoice in the Lord no matter the circumstances of life:
Rev. Dale Lang whose son was murdered in the hallway of his school years ago. Rev. Lang was able to forgive the young man who shot his son and even ministered to him in jail. You can’t have that kind of forgiveness if you are focused on the circumstance. He focused on God and was able to forgive his son’s murderer.
Pastor Stauffer in Edson lost his 14 year old daughter, Emily. She had been raped and murdered. In the family’s statement to the press only hours after her body was discovered, they made a point of saying that they “rejoiced” that Emily was with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I think of the Morales family. Pastor Jesse (as he was lovingly called) was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2008. Jesse struggled valiantly with the disease for nineteen months, even leading a few of his caregivers to follow Christ even though he had difficulty speaking towards the end of his life. If you want to witness first hand what it means to be “rejoicing in suffering”…look at the Morales’ during that difficult time in their lives! Jesse’s daughter Stephanie posted this blog:
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Upon returning from the Philippines, my dad decided not to go back to work due to his decrease in functional ability. This was a pretty devastating step but at the same time, we were thankful that he was able to know when it was time to stop. We had a bad “breathing” scare not too long after. The doctor assessed his breathing ability (which is the biggest indicator of lifespan) and it looked grim at first. He saw a Repirologist today who confirmed that he is at 73% of normal capacity and has not declined since August. Each new day is a gift, and every day that the symptoms don’t worsen, we celebrate!
Since then, 4 of his siblings have been up to visit. The gold girls, Cleo, Fely and Rose made the long drive up for only a 1 day turn around a couple of weeks ago. Among the many highlights was my Aunt Cleo stir-frying dad’s healthy breakfast cereal (concocted by Aunt Remie) thinking it was brown rice. She added the usual onions, soy sauce, etc. to OATMEAL and the best part was… she ate it! (Bless her heart for not wanting to waste food!) You have to find joy in the little things right?
Last week Uncle Lope and his family were up and thank you to Les especially who has the wonderful gift of humor. I know you made him laugh hysterically on more than one occasion. Uncontrollable laughter is a symptom of ALS but we’ve unanimously decided it’s our favorite symptom! Praise God for laughter.
This is a hard road that we’re on. But as I was told by a very godly woman, you have to revel in those little moments of happiness that God brings your way. Otherwise, we’re doomed to being a victim of circumstances.”
Jesse passed away on August 17, 2009. We attended our friend’s memorial service along with hundreds more. It was a celebration of a life well lived! Canadian Country superstar, Paul Brandt even sang at the service, his life having been touched personally by Pastor Jesse. Every year, his family, friends and church family participate in the ALS run held in Calgary to raise money for ALS awareness. Jesse left a timeless legacy. He never focused on his circumstances…his sole focus was on the Lord!
Homework for today:
1. What challenging circumstances are you facing right now? 2. Are you able to look beyond those challenges to find a sense of “joy” even in the midst of those circumstances? Why or why not? 3. Pray to the Lord to help you find “joy” even in the midst of hardship and challenges.
“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do…
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1: 2-8,12)
(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)