In the pursuit of happiness, I have filled my life with many things. Some I regret, some were wonderful gifts, but none filled the void deep within.
When I pursued happiness, I discovered that eventually the surge of pleasure dissipated. The negative emotions I attempted to suppress—hurt, grief, sadness, loneliness—once again surfaced, and I felt empty. I scrambled for the next available object or relationship to fill that void, desperately hoping to restore bliss. I often based my happiness on my circumstances.
Many of us strive for contentment. We may regret some of our choices. Shopping therapy may lift our moods—until we receive the credit card bill. Whether lonely, tired or depressed, we know chocolates boost our spirits— until we glare at the digits on the scale. Addictions drive us with unquenchable thirst that demands a fix, surpassing the previous high. We get involved in wrong relationships. These derail our destinies and hurtle us down destructive paths, leaving a wake of devastation.
We look for fulfillment not only in these temporary pleasures, but our blessings as well. Traveling to exotic places can be exhilarating, but once we arrive home, the sights and sounds are relegated to memory. We throw ourselves into our jobs, chasing the next promotion, a different boss or more money. We purchase larger houses with higher mortgages. We fill them with pets whose soulful eyes beg us to take them home.
Relationships are one of the greatest gifts God has given us to enjoy. From childhood, a girl dreams of her wedding day, gliding down the aisle clothed in a princess gown to meet her groom. Oops, the knight in shining armor has fallen off his horse AGAIN! Next comes the arrival of a darling bundle of joy. Ten tiny toes and fingers plunged into adorable outfits. But soon come sleepless nights, terrible twos and rebellious teens.
We often expect these blessings to fill the deep void inside of us. But when happiness eludes us because of unfulfilled expectations, barbs of emptiness stab at our hearts. It is during these seasons of disappointment, hurt and disillusionment that we become offended and bitterness takes root. Unfortunately, we sometimes trash relationships we once treasured.
Maybe we need to upgrade our pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy.
Joy is eternal. It transcends our circumstances. Joy comes easy during our mountaintop adventures. But we can also experience joy in seasons of deep sorrow. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit that comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives. He is the only one who can fill the empty places, heal our broken hearts and restore joy. When we pursue Jesus and His presence, we experience His joy.
Psalm 16:11 NKJV says, “In His presence is the fullness of joy.”
How can we upgrade happiness to joy?
We thank God for all He has given us, acknowledging that all we have comes from Him. Expressing words of gratitude leads us to contentment and joy.
Praise opens the door to the presence of God. In praise and worship, we take our eyes off ourselves and our concerns and turn our gazes toward God. We focus on who He is— His character, His majesty, His glory—and we are filled with His joy.
When we reflect on the truth of God’s Word, we discover His character—His compassion, His mercy and His love for us. His promises offer us comfort, peace, hope and joy.
Reading or listening to the real-life stories of how God rescued others in the midst of their suffering restores hope and stirs our joy.
Reaching out to others takes our eyes off ourselves. We focus on the needs of another person. In our giving, we please God, the giver of life, and He allows us to share in His joy.
Corrie ten Boom said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.” Forgiveness generates joy.
In the presence of God I have been changed. I discovered that He has enabled me to do the seemingly impossible—believe, trust and forgive.
How can you upgrade from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy?