Over the past few weeks I have noted a common theme in some things I have read. Three were blog posts and one was a promotion for a new book. The blog titles all asked questions: Is Your Joy Real or an Imposter? Why Are So Many Christians Unhappy? And, Are You a Negaholic? The final blog title continued: 5 Ways Pessimism Is Ruining Your Life. With those blog titles fresh in my mind I almost bought the advertised book, The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World.
I think these writers are scratching where a lot of people are itching right now. If you watch the news and listen to people talk it isn’t hard to be discouraged and concerned. There is a lot going on in the world, our country, our families, and our individual lives. And while we may not be miserably unhappy, our joy may be in retreat.
Technically, there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is more about external circumstances and joy is more about an internal mindset. When it comes to the children of God and followers of Jesus, the Bible has a lot to say about joy. Christians are to be people of joy.
The keynote of the Apostle Paul’s New Testament letter to the Philippians is joy. In four chapters he mentions rejoice and joy 17 times. Several years ago I preached a message from this letter titled “Maintaining the Joy.” What I find particularly interesting is Paul’s instruction in 2:14 to “Do everything without complaining and arguing” (NLT). Those familiar with the Old Testament will remember the constant complaining and grumbling of the children of Israel in Exodus and Numbers after they left Egypt. It reminds me of the blog title asking if you are a negaholic.
With the possible exception of love, I’m not sure anything is more important in the Christian life than attitude. And to me, constant complaining indicates a bad attitude. The challenge for us is to minimize complaining, focus on the positive, and cultivate gratitude. And I am not suggesting we somehow blind ourselves to the reality of life. Everything in life is not good. I am suggesting we take I Thessalonians 5:18 seriously, “Be thankful in all circumstances.” The instruction is not give thanks for all circumstances, but in all circumstances.
Where is the joy? It is in the Lord and in our hearts because of our relationship with Him. We certainly won’t be happy all the time, but we can be thankful and maintain our joy whatever our external circumstances. (And I still may order the book The Happy Christian.)
Feel free to share this post if you think others would appreciate it and I welcome comments below.
Photo courtesy of her mother.