By Rev. Dave Heller
Joy. Happiness. We all want it. We pursue after it. We try to find it in everything we do. We want and say to ourselves, “If I only had this” or “If I only could do that,” then we would be truly happy. We would finally have joy in our life. Bologna!! We can “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda” all day long and never come close to finding the real joy and happiness we are longing for. So then where can we find true contentment?
In Philippians 4:4-13 the apostle Paul writes:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Paul isn’t crazy; he says it twice—rejoice! But notice this; what gives Paul joy is not things or circumstances. It’s Paul’s relationship with God gave him a sense of contentment that transcended his immediate circumstances. He was a man who knew what it was like to be in the pits. He “walked through the valley of the shadow of death.” Shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and on and on—still he maintains contentedness because of his relationship with God.
No matter what your circumstance this holiday season you can recover your joy—but we need a commitment to contentment. Contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God’s will, whatever that will may be. It’s easy to submit when God’s will involves large amounts of cash, perfect health, exotic vacations, or endless trips to the dessert bar! But a commitment to contentment embraces both prosperity and pain as from the hand of God.
Finally, here are four practical tips you can start using right now to start recovering your joy:
- Ignore the lies of pursuing happiness.
- Live with a “Jesus is enough” mentality.
- Count your blessings (really, write them down).
- Focus on helping others who are even less fortunate than you.