I Timothy 6: 6 (NIV)
No one has everything and everyone has something
of sorrow intermingled with gladness of life.
The trick is to make the laughter
outweigh the tears.
If we attempt to make our own happiness, we will but fall on our proverbial face. As Christians, we must learn the difference between happiness and joy. According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, the meaning of happiness is (a) a state of well-being and contentment, or (b) a pleasurable or satisfying experience. Joy, on the other hand, is defined as (a) the emotion evoked by a state of well-being, success or good fortune or (b) the expression or exhibition of such emotion.
So, happiness is a state of well-being or a pleasurable experience. Certainly, not all of life is a state of well-being or pleasurable. Therefore, if we are depending on happiness for contentment, we WILL be disappointed. Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or the expression of that emotion. You may ask then, if joy is the emotion expressed due to happiness, how can I have joy without happiness? Therein lies the secret of living a contented Christian life.
Psalms 19 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Verses 7 and 8 say "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart." These verses to me epitomize how and where I will find the joy of my life...."the LAW... the STATUTES... the PRECEPTS".
So, what are the LAW, STATUTES and PRECEPTS of the Lord? Well, we know the LAW is the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai, commonly known to modern man as The Ten Commandments. Now, a lot was added to that, but those ten rules basically cover every aspect of our life.
Whoaaaaa, you say, but we're no longer under the LAW, we're under GRACE. So right you are! However, Jesus plainly teaches us that His coming did not do away with the LAW, it only fulfilled it. In St. Matthew 5: 17, Jesus says "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. "
Here, we run smack into the STATUTES of the Lord. So, what are the STATUTES of the Lord? Well, let's take a look at that. Again, I refer you to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, which defines a statute as 'a law enacted and intended to be permanent'. Hummmm, so the STATUTES of the Lord are those portions of the LAW God intended to be permanent. What did Jesus have to say about that?
In St. John 15: 12-14 and 17, Jesus says this..."My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." and "This is my command: Love each other." Jesus leaves this one command for his followers because He knew that, when we truly love each other as He loves, we will by natural persuasion follow the other commands. True love compels us to do what is good and right for the other person, no matter what the cost is to us personally.
Now, we have covered the LAW and the STATUTES; we come to the PRECEPTS, and that is where we meet the Lord is a more personal place. He begins to deal with us about how to abide by His LAW and STATUTES by teaching His PRECEPTS. Merriam Webster defines a PRECEPT as a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action.
Herein lies the whole of Scripture. Every verse, every word, every idea is necessary in order for us to live according to God's plan for our lives. God knew we would need His Divine Guidance in every area of our life. He provided for that by leaving us His Holy Scriptures to be a light to our path. (Ps. 119:105) Every question or concern we face has an answer in Scripture.
Making ourselves familiar with that Word is the ultimate tool in helping us live a contented life.
So, what does all of that have to do with making the best of your circumstances or making the laughter outweigh the tears? Simply this, there will be times of your life that will cause you pain and take your happiness from you. We are but humans living in a fallen world in bodies of flesh and bone. It is the natural consequence of this fallen state to bring pain at times.
However, when we walk with the Lord, when we know His Word, when we cultivate an intimate relationship with Him, then we can rise above the pain and still experience the emotion of happiness, which is joy. Joy is that part of happiness that settles deep within us; that part that we can't explain to others who don't also experience it.
Joy is the part of us that keeps up going forward when all around us seems to be pushing us backwards. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us to guide us into light and truth. I love the old hymn 'Trust and Obey'. A portion of it goes like this...'when we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way...', God's glory is shed on me whatever life may bring my way when I trust and obey.
So, I may not be happy all the time; but I am joyful all the time. It's not easy, it takes work; just as anything worth having is worth working for. Living a contented life will not be easy, but it will be worth it.
"Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet..." I long for that day when I can sit at His feet and I will then know the answers to the questions I could not find answers to while in this mortal body. Until then, I live contented to know He walks beside me each step of my way and I most assuredly can "Trust and obey".
(All Scripture references are from the NIV, unless otherwise noted.)