Episode 4 : Happiness
What a year 2020 has been. So many people have spent so much time complaining about how bad it's been and how unhappy they've been. Happiness this year has been a hot topic. And when society tells you to live your best life - do what makes you happy - find happiness wherever you can, it's always on the forefront of people's minds.
Here's the problem most people run into - they're so busy chasing happiness, they miss out on things here and now. They're so invested in that feeling and fulfillment they expect to get when they catch whatever it is they want, they often times end up disappointed and empty when their expectations aren't met or when that feeling or that fulfillment doesn't last. No shocker there, is it? People and things will let you down. So then they're on another hunt. Another wild goose chase. Trying to find the next thing to make them feel happy and/or fulfilled. It's a never ending cycle.
Happiness is based on what's happening. (I stole that from my pastor and friend, THE Eric Beavers.) It's an emotional response to external circumstances. It's how we feel about what's happening around and to us. The problem with that? You can't always control what's happening, so you can't always control your happiness. Add to that the fact that emotions come and go and are easily manipulated. So your feeling of happiness cannot and will not remain constant or consistent. You just can't lean on or rely on your emotions. It's a sure way to lead a life of frustration and disappointment.
People will let you down. Circumstances will let you down. This year I was going to open a new karate dojo with my long time friend and training partner... and then COVID "lockdowns" happened. Then of course all the inconveniences of the lockdowns. Then I lost my job. Then due to various circumstances and the potentially huge hit the economy may take in 2021, another great business opportunity has pretty much vanished. Not a single one of those things had a real negative impact on me mentally, emotionally, or psychologically. Why not? Because I wasn't chasing happiness. I wasn't looking to any of those things for happiness or fulfillment or anything like that. How is it through it all I've remained "happy?"
I haven't. Because I don't need "happiness." And neither do you. Happiness comes and goes. What I have - what we all need - is something that remains constant and consistent. Something that never leaves us. And that's exactly what I have. That thing is joy. All too often, we mistake happiness for joy. But they're not the same.
Joy isn't an emotion. It isn't fleeting. It doesn't come and go. It isn't based on what's happening. It isn't influenced by external circumstances. Joy comes from within. Joy is already inside you. Joy will never leave you. You may lose sight of it, but it's always there. Rather than external circumstances and what's happening affecting your happiness, your joy affects what's going on around you.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is a direct result of - evidence of - His love for us. When we abide in - when we live in His love, we have Jesus' joy and our joy can be full (John 15:9-12). Joy is God's free gift to us. It's just like His love and His grace. Just like Jesus and salvation. Just like the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you know God - if you have accepted Jesus - if you are born again, you have the one and only true source of joy living on the inside of you.
But joy is tied to more than just the love of God. It's closely related to gratitude. The depth of your gratitude is in direct proportion to the heights of your joy. (I stole that from Eric, too!) The more grateful you are for God's love, for His grace, for Jesus, for His love, for His sacrifice, for salvation, for all the things that They have done for you, the more joyful you are. When you take your eyes off of yourself and put them on Jesus - when you stop focusing on how you feel about something and focus on Elohim's love for you and what He's done out of that great love for you - it doesn't matter what's going on in the world. Your joy can be full. And along with that joy comes hope.
So stop chasing happiness. Stop looking to this world and other people to make you happy. Look to your Creator, the One Who truly loves you, the One Who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:23), the One Who has loved you and acted on your behalf since the beginning of time. In Him you'll find joy. In your gratefulness for Him and what He's done your joy will be full.
Practice the love of God.