One of the greatest gifts I have been given is being taught by my pastor that God means for us to live with joy. I spent a lot of years allowing my disappointment with life to be my focus. To some degree, I behaved as a victim of my circumstances rather than as a victor through Christ. Victors know that God is working in their lives and in the world for His glory and their good. My pastor introduced me to the idea that I should choose to do what will give me joy rather than doing things out of obligation. The surprise in this is that it doesn’t affect the choices you make as much as your attitude about those choices. It is about understanding that the things we often say we have to do are really choices that we are making. We choose to do things because there is more joy in that action than in the consequences of not doing it. Whether we are preserving a good relationship with a family member or keeping ourselves out of jail, we make choices based on our own happiness, every day. But too often, we go through life moping about our decisions as though we have no choice, rather than finding happiness in choosing to live the way we do.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I have read the Scriptures and seen clearly the call to live with joy, no matter what the circumstances of life are. My motto as a single woman is, ‘It’s better to be single than in a bad marriage.’ My heart used to be bitter about being single; it still makes me sad. But I have found peace in realizing that, ultimately, God has my life in His hands. I have made certain decisions, and my motto highlights my conclusion that I should never settle for less than God’s best for me. But I know that God is able to change my situation, if it is His will. In learning to trust Him, no matter what, I have become happier and have peace in my heart. I have decided that I prefer His will to be done in my life, rather than my own.
“I [Jesus] have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
It is so easy for the words of the Lord’s Prayer to become so familiar that we don’t think about them. Jesus example of how to pray began, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) Of course, God is in control, and thus, His will being done is a given. These words are more about us desiring His will to be done and surrendering to it. We should also truly long for His future kingdom, rather than being attached to our worldly life. And if this is truly our prayer, we won’t live with so much fear of the future and anxiety about the earthly, human kingdom in which we live.
Scripture promises us trouble in this life, on almost every page. I, for one, feel that relative to the world, I am living in the lap of luxury and ease. Of course, it is likely I am more attached to this than I ought to be. I love my country and do not want to see it fall, nor do I want my way of life come to an end. Yet God’s Word instructs me that I am a citizen of heaven, and if I am praying for God’s Kingdom to come, and truly seeking His kingdom, shouldn’t that make me more invested in God than country? Shouldn’t His kingdom be my primary citizenship?
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7
There are a lot of frightening things in the world, and Jesus promised that we would have troubles, here. But He also said that today has enough trouble of its own. Why are we adding our fears for tomorrow? Moreover, we are called to live with joy today, why let speculation over tomorrow keep us in chains of unhappiness? If we have trusted our lives to God, we must also trust our nation to Him and our tomorrows to Him.
God has slowly taught me this over the last decade. It has helped me through elections, Covid, and simply coping with a life that is not what I had hoped for. I often compare bitterness to rust because the wall we think we are building around our heart is actually eating away at it. Trusting God is Rustoleum for my heart. The bitterness and anger over the past doesn’t penetrate, and neither do anxieties for the future. Which is not to say that I have perfectly overcome fear and disappointment, but that I am making God my focus, instead. I am not allowing those things to rule my life and my mood like they used to. And I am happier for it. Christians like to say that joy and happiness are different things. In this way they excuse themselves for going through life unhappy even though God has called them to be joyful always. Whatever the dictionary says, there is one thing I know to be true: the person who has joy is happier than the person who doesn’t. So, followers of Christ should generally be happier than those who don’t know Him.