By: Steve Wilmot
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve examined a myth that many people (Christians included) believe. It’s the myth that God wants you happy.
The overriding purpose of life, according to this myth, is your happiness. And whatever it takes to be happy — even if it involves doing something you know to be wrong – is okay because God wants you happy more than anything else.
But even if it were true, the happiness we seek will always be elusive. Why? Because happiness is always based on circumstances.
When my husband is nice to me…I’m happy. When my wife makes my favorite dinner…I’m happy.
When I get the promotion…I’m happy. When an unexpected check comes in the mail…I’m happy. When my team wins…happy, happy, happy!
But when any of those things don’t happen, I’m not happy. I may get angry or disappointed or depressed, but I’m definitely not happy.
“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
“When times are good, be,” what? “When times are good, be happy.” Enjoy. Have a blast! Embrace it! Live it for everything it’s worth.
“But when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” God doesn’t want circumstances to dictate your emotions.
God has something better for you than happiness which is fleeting and dependent on what’s happening around you. Instead of happiness, what we really need to talk about is joy.
Joy is not destroyed when bad things happen because it is not based on what is going on around you. Joy is something based on what’s inside you.
In Luke 15 where Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son, he states that the younger son had everything he could ever want, much like each of us, especially by comparison with people in many other nations.
But he wasn’t satisfied so he said, “Father, I’m not happy here. Give me my share of everything. I want to go and find happiness.”
So the son went out and partied. He blew all his money. He did everything he thought would make him happy. But in his pursuit of happiness, he became miserable.
Things aren’t any different today — “Well, maybe this will make me happy. Maybe that will make me happy. Maybe this over here will make me happy.” Look around. In the pursuit of happiness, people are the most discontented and most miserable people anywhere.
Like the prodigal, in the pursuit of happiness, most people become miserable. But joy is a completely different thing. The theme and most used word in the New Testament book of Philippians is joy.
In case you didn’t know, Paul wrote Philippians from prison. He was an innocent man He lived on meager food and drink. He slept on a hard floor. He was not free to come and go as he pleased. Boredom must have been a daily enemy.
To top it off, Paul was awaiting a decision that would decide whether he would be executed or released. Not exactly Happyville. But through all of it, Paul experienced joy.
God doesn’t want you happy when it’s based on circumstances because it can be taken away when circumstances change. There’s a better gift God wants to give you — the gift of joy.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
Did you catch that? Paul had a secret most people miss even when his circumstances robbed him of happiness. He had discovered the gift of joy. Learning Paul’s secret is all about changing your perspective.
Paul was chained to Roman guards 24/7, but he saw it from a different perspective. If he was chained to a guard, then the guard was also chained to him.
That meant Paul had a “captive” audience to share the gospel with 24/7. That gave Paul great joy even in terrible circumstances.
Consider what is said about Jesus in Hebrews 12.2 – “For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
If Jesus believed God wanted him to be happy, he never would have gone to the cross! The verse doesn’t say, “For the happiness set before him.” It says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.”
Jesus looked beyond the suffering of the cross to his heavenly reunion with his Father and to what his death would mean for us — salvation. And that gave him great joy even in awful circumstances.
God wants you more than happy. He offers you the indescribable gift of joy.
Steve Wilmot is a former Edgerton, Ohio area pastor who now seeks “to still bear fruit in old age” through writing. He is the author of seven books designed to assist believers to make steady progress on their spiritual journey.
The post Column: PASTOR’S PONDERINGS – Something Better Than Happiness first appeared on The Village Reporter.
Source: The Village Reporter