Thursday, June 19, 2014

Some Thoughts on Joy and Happiness and being Christian

Last evening after Worship we had Bible Study and talked about Jeremiah 20:7-13.  This is a passage where Jeremiah alternately rails at God and praises God regarding the reception, or lack thereof, for his ministry and his work as a prophet.  My Bible titles this passage "Jeremiah's Unpopular Ministry".  I think that's a rather weak title for this.  Another version titles it "Jeremiah Rails at God".  That might be more appropriate.

We talked about anger and how being angry at God is something that we as Christians tend to dismiss as inappropriate.  We tend to think that we shouldn't be angry at God no matter what happens - that we as Christians should be joyful and happy and praise God no matter what.

Um, have you read the Bible?
The list of people who are angry at God and rail against him is long and spans both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  Some of these people include:  Moses, Noah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Job, Daniel, David, Paul, and, yes, even Jesus himself!

After more discussion we decided that a misinterpretation of the word "Joy" (and a prethera of children's songs!) may be to blame for this idea that we, as Christians, should always be happy.

I looked up the definition of "joy" and to my dismay found the first definition stating "a state of happiness".  Personally, my understanding of what joy really is better described by the rest of the definitions: The source of happiness, pleasure at a job well done, a sense of peace.  Synonyms included: beatitudes and contentedness as well as blessedness.

I was always taught that happiness is a human emotion, and like other human emotions it is fickle and dependent on our circumstances.  I was also taught that while happiness comes and goes, joy can be a constant thing.

Here are some of the things that I believe joy allows us to feel and do are:

* Being able to recognize little blessings in the midst of adversity - a beautiful flower, that lovely rainbow, a hug from a child, the smell of delicious cooking, the beauty of nature, the comfort of a close relationship, and the availability of the necessities of life (shelter, food, water, and love).

* We can have peace in the midst of death, disaster and illness.  This doesn't mean each day will be peaceful or that we won't feel pain or discomfort or that we will always be happy.  What we know is that God is on our side and that death, disaster, and illness don't have the final word.

Our society believes that in order to be joyful we will be perpetually happy.  That isn't the case.  We live in a fallen world and that means we will have adversity, illness, death, disaster, and pain.  What joy means for us is that we can overcome and move past these things in the peace of Christ and the love of the Lord.

There have been parts of these last few years of our ministry journey that have been very, very painful.  There have been days where both my husband and I have railed against God pointing us in this direction.  If I had had a choice going into this my answer to my husband's statement that he was "going to be a Pastor when he grew up" would have been "Absolutely not!"   If I had known what I know now, I would never, ever in a million years have wanted to put my family through what we have been through - the torn relationships, shredded faith, and painful decisions. 

Joy has brought us to a place where we lean on each other and the Lord.  We are far better at recognizing the little blessings in life - beautiful flowers, healthy bodies, hugs and smiles and cuddles, and the major abundance that the Lord has given us (even though by the standards of the world it may seem inadequate).   We are closer to each other and the Lord.

Those are things that I wouldn't trade for the world. 
Soli Deo Gloria.
Always.

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Lea