Finding Joy Even as the Storm Rages
Are you happy? If you answered no, what is making you unhappy? Do you wish you had a different job? Different house? Different “significant other”? Less debt? More time? Better health? Less stress? Do you every think that your life would be better if only you had ____________ ? Well, I have good news and bad news.
First the bad news. You are never going to attain perfect peace or happiness through your circumstances, no matter how ideal they might seem someday. I heard a sermon on this subject recently and actually grabbed my phone during service and put the topic in my notes because I knew I wanted to write on the subject. The message really resonated with me not only because it is truth but because it is MY truth. I look back on my life and I can see proof that external circumstances cannot bring joy. Lasting joy comes from within.
You may ask if joy comes from within, why can’t it get there by external circumstances? I will tell you why. Because no matter how happy you think you will be when that one thing changes for you, it’s a lie. You may be temporarily happy, but you know how life is. It’s only a matter of time before something new (or old) pops up and rains on your parade. Then you start the “if only” process over again. You got that job you wanted and you were happy until your spouse got sick and now the medical bills are piling up and you’re worn out from working all day then coming home and taking care of him/her. The “I would be happy if only I got this job” has now become “I would be happy if only my husband/wife were healthy again.” It’s a vicious cycle. No matter how good or bad things are, they will not remain the same for long. Life is fluid.
If this sounds depressing and you are wishing you had never started reading this, just slow down. Remember I mentioned good news and bad news. Here’s the good news. There are plenty of people walking around who are joyful in spite of their circumstances. I’ll repeat that. There are plenty of people walking around who are joyful IN SPITE of their circumstances. These people still have problems, challenges, and stress like you do. People who have joy within them can be happy even when life is taking a giant poo on them.
The joy I speak of cannot be manufactured, purchased or stolen. It comes from one place and one place alone. God. Let’s be clear on something. You can be a Christian and still be joyless and unhappy. God bestows His love upon us, which brings us joy. His spirit dwelling within us brings us joy. However, we have this thing called free will and when we insist on having control over everything, we circumvent the process of being happy. We block our blessings. We press the mute button on our joy.
A decade ago, I was a believer but I had not fully surrendered my life to Christ. I worried all the time. I made myself ill from worrying about the most ridiculous things, all of which were completely out of my control. My worry did not change anything. It didn’t impact whether or not those things would happen. What it did was make me miserable. It also made me panic and start doing reckless things in the name of damage control. I was running around trying to fix things that had not even happened. By doing this, I usually caused something bad to happen, even if it was unrelated to the original fear that had set it all in motion. Have you ever done that?
I had two big problems back in the day: (1) I didn’t have faith that God would handle things to my satisfaction (2) Doing something, even if it was wrong, made me feel like I had control of my life.
Can I tell you something? Both of those problems were the product of lies told by the enemy. He whispered in my ear and time after time I bought into the lies when I should have had faith and waited upon God’s timing rather than trying to manipulate the situation to fit my time line.
Trying to retain control over every single aspect of my life was exhausting. It implied that God could not handle it. I believed in God but I did not have FAITH in Him. I believed in God but I was still unhappy and I still thought I could do a better job running my life than He could. Maybe that was not a conscious or expressed thought but that is how I was operating. Why else would I endlessly chase happiness and create havoc everywhere I went trying to attain it on my terms?
Here are just a few of the ideas I got in my head throughout my adult life that were completely wrong: “I would be happy if only I made more money. I would be happy if only my husband were more attentive. I would be happy if my husband worked less. I would be happy if my husband worked more. I would be happy if we had a nicer house. I would be happy if I did not have to work. I would be happy if I lost 10 pounds. I would be happy if I had a new car. I would be happy if I lived in the city. I would be happy if I lived in the country. I would be happy if I were single. I would be happy…” Ridiculous, right? None of those things made me happy or kept me from being happy. However, happiness did finally come and it stayed.
God had to put in some work to win my soul. I often compare my heart to a house. The rules are pretty simple. For anyone to get inside, I had to open the door. Jesus was allowed as far as the front yard for a very long time. Then I let him step onto the front porch. He waited there for a very long time as well, patiently knocking at the door. I heard Him. I knew He was there but I would not walk over to the door to open it. The enemy kept me busy inside that house, distracted with lots of other things. At one point, influences entered my life that acted like a wrecking ball, knocking the enemy’s distractions out of the way so I could move a little closer to the door every single day. When I finally put my hand on that doorknob and turned it… oh, man.
I remember so clearly how the old me died the instant I opened the door and Jesus stepped across the threshold. When I allowed him inside, I gained everything I had ever needed. What every mortal man had failed to provide me I found in Jesus. Unconditional love. Acceptance in spite of my flaws and failures. No condemnation. No jealousy. No mind games. What every job failed to provide me, I found in Jesus. What money could not give me, Jesus had and used to make me truly wealthy. Houses, cars, cities, marital status, my weight had no bearing any longer. None of that even mattered. The ever present void in my life was filled to capacity by Jesus. I was lacking in nothing. I gained wisdom, clarity and perspective so I could see things as they were in spite of the things the enemy continued to use to distract me. The Holy Spirit within me gave me the ability to see through the lies and illusions the devil had created. Suddenly the biggest thing that I struggled with my entire life was not such a struggle anymore. You see, patience was always a problem for me before but now I was able control it instead of it controlling me. As I began to learn how to be patient, that enabled me to live out faith and trust.
Allowing Jesus in also allowed Him to rewire me and make me a new creation. I began to lean on Him for everything rather than trying to be self-sufficient. I embraced my weakness and insufficiency. I began to lay all my troubles at His feet and ask Him to carry the weight of them so I could walk away from them and be free. I was grateful to have my burdens lifted. They had been wearing me down my entire life. So here I was, the girl who always insisted on driving all the time handing over the keys. I didn’t get into the backseat, I got into the trunk!
When I began to trust, it taught me to be patient. Because I was not getting in God’s way and messing up my own life by busily running around trying to put out fires that didn’t even exist, I was able to see God at work in my life. Seeing my faith at work simply made it grow stronger. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to have faith. This is the process by which you tap into lasting joy. I'm talking about the kind of joy that sustains you through every season. They kind makes others wonder what it is you have, and where can they get some for themselves.
Hand me the mic and let me testify. Brothers and sisters, God orchestrates my life in such a way that I see His hand in it every day, working things for my good and I give Him all the glory for it. My happiness comes from The Lord. When life goes wrong and I get stressed, I press into Him that much harder and He brings me through each and every storm. I experience a peace in my heart and joy in my life IN SPITE of my circumstances, which are ever changing. No matter the trials the day may bring, I can always find something to be grateful for. I can always find something to smile about. I can always focus of my Savior’s face and find joy.
It is because I surrendered control of my life to Christ that I am able to trust that He will always do what is best for me, even when it doesn’t line up with what I hoped or expected. Because I know that I can trust Jesus with everything, I have faith that He will always come through for me and He always does. It is because of this that I have joy. I am in the best hands possible. There is nothing better or more solid to stake my happiness on.