I've had at least two conversations this last week with two different people that have had me thinking a lot about this topic of Joy. Those conversations have caused me a lot of pain, so this comes out of me processing some of the hard emotions. Just wanted to share where I'm at 7 days, and 2 days later.
Remember this is my blog and the title is notions. The dictionary definition of notion is 1. a general understanding; vague or imperfect conception or idea of something: a notion of how something should be done: 2. and opinion, view, or belief: 3. conception or idea. SO the follow is simply my notions...please read everything with a prayerful heart and with the best of intentions in mind.
Happiness is fickle. Fleeting. Not to be trusted. Not rooted in the Truth of the Bible or God's love. Happiness does not take into account God's ways and plans, eternity, etc. For instance: I am not happy that the housing market crashed and we have 'lost' $90,000+ since 'investing'. But I was happy when we bought the house. And I am happy with the house (room to grow, great neighborhood, etc). And my unhappiness has nothing to do with God, his plans, etc. It's entirely tied to the idea that we should have made money in the last 6 years living here- not lost it.
And happiness is different than JOY.
Joy is permanent. REAL. Truly a 'fruit of the Spirit', based on the life changing and life giving love of God. It is something that is truly attainable in the midst of any and all circumstances. I am still filled with joy despite being unhappy with many things. Another example: I am not happy to have heartburn with this pregnancy but I am joyful to be pregnant again! I am not happy to face labor and delivery again (in fact I'm terrified) but I am joyful to hold another child in my arms and expand our family.
For me, the difference between a joyful life and misery-ful life comes down simply to a choice. Which dog do you choose to feed? The white dog or the black dog? I could choose to feed my black dog by focusing on the things that are wrong with my life (black dog)- a Master's degree with no available jobs, an upside down mortgage, a broken garage door, etc. OR I can choose to focus on the things that are 'right' with my life (white dog)- an incredible husband and son, numerous family and friends, a roof over my head, food on my table, etc.
What I'd like you to know about me is that my joy is real and authentic. I am not a 'fake' happy person. Through practice and a lot of help from above, I feed the white dog. So much so that it's now actually hard for me to think about the black dog or even want to feed him...most of the time. I was not always like this- this is a big change from who I used to be and so I attribute all of it to God's redeeming love and point it out as a 'fruit' of His Spirit working in me. I'm still human. I still get down, depressed, frustrated, etc. with the circumstances of life and challenging relationships but in general, I have discovered that what Paul says in Philippians 4 is true.
See if you don't recognize the white dog/black dog analogy in these verses (emphasis mine):
Philippians 4: 4-9, 12-13 , "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you....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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
I used to think I had no power over my thoughts and emotions but the Bible tells us otherwise! (Again, I will never say this is, will be, or should be easy...but it is possible.)
2 Corinthians 10: 3-5, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, the have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
In this passage I feel convicted that not taking my thoughts captive is disobedience. I'm not always successful but I tend to be more successful when, like 2 Corinthians says, I use weapons with divine power (think Ephesians 6:10-18 and the full armor of God).
Lastly, lest you think that joy is the only thing I care about and that I would condemn you for not being joyful, may I remind you that 1) I wasn't always like this, 2) this is the result of God working in me- not something I could have done or did do on my own, 3) there is more than one 'fruit of the Spirit' and I have a long way to go.
Galatians 5:1, 7-9, 13-23 (again, emphasis mine), "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery...You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough."...You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
And that is why, at the end of this incredibly hard week filled with a lot of hurt, I am still authentically joy-filled and cannot be convinced to be otherwise.
Wow! I didn't plan on writing a sermon and I best stop now...but I want to continue (tomorrow or later this week) because the passage from Galatians ties in seamlessly with this week from the Bible study I've been participating in for the last 11 weeks. How cool is that?! God is pretty amazing, how He can work all things together for good (Romans 8: 28). And that ties into where I'm feeling convicted currently...where I feel God's Spirit doing some pretty intense work in my heart- it's not pretty! Like I said, I have a loooooong way to go!