Yesterday, while visiting Bev’s grave, I sat down on the bench I placed there. I became aware of the sound of crying coming across the cemetery. Two people visiting a relatively new grave were grieving, torn by sorrowful storms, sobbing. I could empathize! Not wanting to invade their privacy, I kept a distance but how I wanted to comfort them. That kind of sorrow is awful.
I like being happy! I’m sure you do, too. Let me back up and confess that I am, by nature, a person of introspection who tends to be melancholy. Indeed I have been accused of being able to find the clouds on the sunniest of days. But, I do love to laugh, appreciate a good joke, and find much in life that makes me glad to be who I am.
Most people I know believe that joy finds them, not the other way ‘round. We tend to believe that ‘luck’ and happiness go hand in hand. Jesus teaches a different thing about being happy. In the beginning of Matthew 5 we find His words about being ‘blessed.’ The passage confounds our natural mind, reading rather like a riddle, until we take time to look more deeply at His words.
Here’s what He says about finding the blessings of God.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4, NIV)
Does that seem utterly ridiculous to you? Are you tempted to read those words about as seriously as you might read that the lines from that slip inside the fortune cookie that came with your order of Chinese take-out? His words are the wisdom of God, asking us to think differently than the natural mind does.
Jesus asks us to consider that there is a kind of joy to be discovered in God’s Presence that is greater than our circumstances of life. Until we have felt the poverty of this present existence compared to the riches of knowing God; until we have turned off the music and let ourselves feel the ache of a life apart from God, we cannot experience the blessedness that is available from our Heavenly Father.
Jesus knew, and wants us to know, that real joy comes from something other than physical comfort, wealth, ‘good luck,’ youth, or a feast. True joy is God-centered. When we live though circumstances that turn our hearts to Him, when we reach out to Him, and when we choose to let Him reign as our Lord: we enter into the ‘blessed’ (joyful) life.
Here is the heart of this matter, a paradox really. Those most in touch with heaven, most deeply satisfied with God, are able to live the richest kind of life, right here and now. Jesus alludes to that when He promises – “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10, NLT) When we worship God rather than His creation, we are able to enjoy what He has made in a richer way.
I will not deny that there is a kind of happiness we can know when we find love, when our felt needs are met, when creature comforts are plentiful! Money lets us buy fun. Health is better than sickness. Sunshine is preferable to a storm. IF you are in a season when you are full, well-supplied, and satisfied- be thankful! Solomon wrote “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19, NIV)
Christian, this is true – we need not lose our joy, fall apart, slide into despair and depression when the sun disappears behind the clouds, as it surely will. We do well, as followers of Jesus, to pursue the Presence of God each day, to live for more than our appetites so that we are able to know the greater joy of the ‘blessed’ life. There is a kind of joy that remains constant, that steadies us in the storms, that is not circumstantial. We find that in God’s love, the result of being “God blessed!” That faith that connects us to the love of our Father is the foundation of true contentment of which is written – “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Where do I seek joy?
Who or what do I believe is the source of my happiness?
This exercise is not just philosophical. It is quite practical. Since we spend so much effort, consciously and unconsciously, seeking to make ourselves happy- does it not make sense to consciously understand what we want? If we are chasing the temporary things, it follows that lasting happiness will elude us. We will waste many hours and great resources to gain possession of things that will surely turn out to be less than we hoped they might be, returning less reward than we hoped.
Jesus says that being willing to be ‘poor in spirit,’ to become aware of our spiritual poverty, to be willing to ‘mourn,’ to let ourselves feel broken opens a door for God, the Spirit, to introduce us to real joy! We discover what it is to live under the care of God, in the ‘kingdom of heaven.’ We find that our broken state is healed when we are ready to accept Jesus’ love and the Spirit’s life. In Him, there is True Hope.
Here is a word from the Word. I pray it for you today. “We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.” (Colossians 1:9-12, NLT) Amen
My life is in You Lord
My strength is in You Lord
My hope is in You Lord
In You it’s in You
I will praise You
With all of my life
I will praise You
With all of my strength
With all of my life
With all of my strength
All of my hope is in You
Daniel Gardner© 1986 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook))