There are two kinds of pleasure: temporal happiness and eternal joy. For the lost, this world is all they have. They spend their lives in pursuit of the things that make them feel happy and contented in this life. For the children of God, we have those same opportunities, but we also have something more: eternal joy. It’s a spiritual pleasure that only comes from interacting with God. Taking time to think about where and how you find enjoyment can reveal a lot about your spiritual condition. Maybe it’s time to stop chasing happiness and choose joy.
Earthly happiness comes in many forms and, in moderation, is encouraged by God. Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works.” There are many ways that both the lost and the saved can find pleasure in our world. The only time it becomes dangerous for the child of God is when seeking this pleasure comes before, or more often than, seeking the joy that only God can bring.
Family Can Make Us Happy
Think about the happiness you feel with your family. Meeting your spouse, getting married, and building a life brings happiness. Children bring a whole new level of delight. Consider the birth of a new baby, your child’s first smiles and steps. Or what about all those days of summer picnics, first days of school, fun shopping trips and vacations, and the deep feeling of pride at their accomplishments? Graduations, first days at college, and grandchildren all bring a great sense of happiness. God has given us our families. Though great love can cause great pain, family can be a source of much happiness in this life.
Work Can Make Us Happy
Then there’s the happiness you feel about your work. From the smallest bit of contentment you feel about a freshly mopped kitchen floor to the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from a promotion or other career win, work can make you happy. God has given us all gifts that we can use for Him. Some of these involve skills we can take into the workplace. When we are good at what we do, it feels good. When we can earn enough to support our families and have enough left over for a decent car, a nice house, a good phone, and dinners out, it’s a good thing. God gives us the skills and opportunities. It is up to us to be good stewards with the resources He puts into our hands.
Physical and Mental Gratification
Happiness in mental and physical gratification is the one that is hardest for some to keep in restraint. Delicious food, vacations, rest, intimacy, and spending time with pets and friends can make us happy. Reading a great book, time on the internet, playing video games, or watching sports or appropriate movies can be fun. All of these can all be proper for the child of God when not taken to extremes.
But seeking for temporal happiness shouldn’t be our main goal. Family is crucial, but it can’t be the thing we think about most in this world. Striving after promotions and income can be important in God’s will for our lives. When done for their own sake, though, they can skew our priorities about the way we spend our time and attentions. Physical and mental gratification can bring us a happiness that is still good and right in the sight of God. They only become a problem when they are out of balance. If they are a substitute for God’s comfort or an alternative to spending time with God, that’s a problem.
Beyond the things of this world that make us happy, there is something more: the joy that only God can bring. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Hearing God, interacting with Him, and living our lives in tune with the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us is what separates those who are alive from those who are dead. The joy we receive from communion with our Creator is something only children of God can know, but we have to take the time to choose joy.
Reading the Bible Can Bring Us Joy
I have a friend who says, “People who are alive need to eat. If you aren’t hungry for the Word of God, maybe you aren’t spiritually alive at all. Maybe you are still dead in your sins.” That’s a pretty strong statement, but it makes sense when you think about it. Some of the greatest feelings of joy I have experienced have come when I was reading the Bible and God opened up something to me that I had never seen before. He can also use it to speak into the situations in our lives. He can teach us lessons in a way that we KNOW we are hearing from God. Setting an appointed time each day to spend time with God is His word is essential to building a relationship with Him. As any child will tell you, love is spelled T-I-M-E. We have to make time to choose joy.
Worshiping in His Presence Can Bring Us Joy
Whether you go to a brick and mortar church or worship by yourself at home, worship can bring some of the deepest joy there is. Wrapped in that feeling that He is there, we sing, praise, pray, and raise our hands. We relish in the knowledge that He is our king forever. One day, we will be with Him to worship Him in person. This life is not all there is. There is more, and it is ours because we are loved by God not just now but forever more. Jude 24 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” He will keep us from stumbling if we will but seek Him. Like the hymn says, we can have that “joy unspeakable and full of glory” both now and forever more. We can choose joy.
Living in Constant Connection Can Bring Us Joy
Bible reading and worship are specific things done at set times. But one of the greatest joys in life comes from living in constant focus on and contact with God. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Waking up with God, meditating about the things of God, seeking His will for our lives, and watching and listening for His leading is a way of life for the child of God. When we are in tune to Jesus, we can see those little “God winks” that bring us joy. Maybe the radio plays the song that expresses our prayers or comforts us with an answer to those prayers. Maybe another Christian confirms an idea that we have been hearing from God. There are so many opportunities to choose joy throughout our day when we spend our time thinking about Him and being grateful for His sacrifice, His provision, and His promises.
We Can Have Joy in Distress
Some people seek food and drink or mindless entertainment to dull the pain that so often comes into our lives. They seek a substitute in a sensation or feeling of temporal happiness. But seeking God in times of pain can bring true joy. When I’m distressed, the Holy Spirit will often bring a Bible verse to my mind that puts the whole situation into focus. When I’m upset or sad, so often, the page I “just happen to be on” in the Bible will remind me that He is there with me and I will never be alone. Or even times that the devil is beating me up or lying to me, the Holy Spirit will simply alert me to his attack so I can fight back with the Word of God. Truly, some of the deepest times of gut-level joy have come out of my darkest days. The reality of a God who cares and takes the time to speak to me is far greater than any amount of sadness this world can bring.
Everyone, whether lost without Jesus or saved by His blood, wants good things that bring pleasure in this life. Pursuing those things through people and things is only natural. But, for the child of God, true joy can only be found in communion with God Himself. As His children, bought and paid for and no longer our own, we must examine ourselves regularly. Do our lives show a balance in the pleasure we seek from this world and the next? Are we substituting happiness for joy? Or, are we seeking after the joy that only a relationship with the one true God can bring. Maybe it’s time to choose joy.
Check out my sister’s blog where Evangelical Christian sisters “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.