How many times have you heard someone say, “But I just want to be happy!” Or even said it yourself?
“I’d be happy if I could lose another 10 pounds, but I hate starving all the time!”
“I love the people I work with, but I’m so unhappy with my job.”
“I can’t stand this apartment anymore . . . I want a house!”
“I’ll never be happy here. Don’t you see how people look at me?”
“I don’t get squat from attending my church, but I’m not going through ripping my wife away from her Bible study friends. I just want her to be happy!”
It’s like happiness is something we trade for. “I’ll give up (fill in the blank) in return for being happy.” But it never seems to work out, does it?
Three things make us unhappy . . .
- Not getting something we want
- Not getting to do what we want to do
- Not having people think what we want them to think
Anxiety comes from unmet expectations, and all three of these ‘unhappies’ start with expectations . . . for ourselves, other people or God. We, humans, create a never-ending stream of expectations.
Even when we get what we think we want, we’re not happy for long. Or down deep. No sooner than we get the ‘thing’ we want, we want something else. The thing we want to do might make us happy for a little while, but stuff changes, something new appears, and happiness fades. And getting people’s approval is never certain and as fickle as a housefly. “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.
Happy is “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” It comes from the same root word as ‘haphazard.’ It connotes random. Spurious. Here and there. Unpredictable.
But the word ‘joy’ . . . which comes from the word ‘rejoice,’ means “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.” Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words ‘happy’ and ‘happiness’ about 30 times, while ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’ appear over 300 times.
For me, joy rides on two things: love and hope. It first came when I grasped that I was loved . . . like really loved . . . by my Heavenly Father. And it hasn’t left since. I have an irrevocable hope because I know that I will always be loved. Personally. By the God of the universe. He knows my name! And He loves me. Individually. Amazing, huh?
The only sure cure for anxiety is a grateful heart. And for the Jesus-follower who ‘gets it,’ gratitude is the default setting of the heart. Grasping how much God loves us, how He forgives us, how He’s always there for us . . . that’s the source of real joy. And that joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances. It’s available 24/7/365. Not haphazard. It’s there for every Jesus-follower.
Scripture: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Mentor Tip: If you catch your guys saying things that start with “If only I . . .” or “I’ll be happy when . . .” jump in and remind them that as Jesus-followers, we’re not looking for happiness . . . we’re resting in the joy that comes from knowing we’re loved.