It might seem crazy, what I’m about to say
Nobody likes to feel bad.
It really stinks to feel bored. Or depressed. Or angry or sad or scared or anxious or lonely.
We go to great lengths to avoid feeling any of those things. That is how addictions begin and are perpetuated. We’ll engage in all sorts of destructive behavior if it will give us a few minutes worth of good feelings, even if those good feelings are followed by an avalanche of guilt and shame. And the pharmaceutical companies are making a fortune off of medications that are supposed to balance our brain chemicals so that we don’t feel bad feelings.
In a world full of bad news, we desperately want to feel happy.
I’ve heard it said that happiness is an inside job. It’s true; no amount of stuff, money, or excitement can bring us good feelings that last. But I propose that happiness is rooted in something that is deeper than feeling good.
Happiness is the fruit of joy.
Happiness and joy aren’t the same thing. Joy is deeper and far less fragile. It can bear up under pain and discomfort, and it doesn’t flee during moments of emotional distress.
And here’s a cool thing to know: God is joyful.
Maybe you thought He was mad at you, or busy wringing His hands over the bad things happening in the world. But no. Scripture says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. If it’s our strength, then surely He doesn’t experience any lack of it Himself.
The more we embrace His joy, the more likely we are to slip into full-blown happiness.
I’ve noticed some things about really happy people.
They are grateful. They look for things to be grateful for.
They don’t feed their hearts or minds with things that insinuate that God is anything other than good.
They refuse to be concerned about things over which they have no control.
They limit the influence of joy-suckers, even when they can’t limit the presence of the same.
They actively choose joy even when it seems like a ridiculous option.
When I’m struggling to grasp happiness, or even joy, it’s a clear signal to me that I need to take specific action. Joy won’t magically return to me. I am responsible to create an internal environment that is conducive and welcoming to it.
It’s the internal environment that protects joy when the outward circumstances of life become difficult or painful.
I don’t know who said it originally, but many times I’ve heard the claim that God is more concerned with your character than your happiness. I think that’s a rotten thing to say, because it implies that God doesn’t care if you’re unhappy.
The truth is that He cares a great deal. So much so that He’ll let our character issues topple our ability to receive and maintain happiness so we’ll deal with them and once again become a hospitable container for joy. His joy.
I’m not always so good at this joy business yet. Some days I am cranky and easily frustrated and tired, and all I want is my blankie and a nap, and maybe some ice cream. Like today.
But I expect a full recovery tomorrow.