Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rainy Morning Joy (not Happiness)

I'm sitting here this Saturday morning kind of in a funk. I and a friend had planned on an early morning bike ride together of around 50-60 miles. But I woke up to the sound of thunder and rain (trust me, not good conditions for road cycling) and so no ride today. I was really looking forward to the ride, but it'll likely have to wait til tomorrow afternoon now. I have been making good progress on my goal of 1000-1500 miles for the summer, already have nearly 500 miles in and starting to feel like I'm getting in shape riding-wise. But, not today.

Which I guess is OK, since I have to do final prep for my Sunday school lesson for tomorrow. So I'm sitting here working through that. And what, pray tell, is the subject of the material I am prepping to teach? Why, it's joy. More specifically, joy as a fruit of the Spirit of God. Ah, the irony of the Lord. On a morning when I am feeling less than joyful, maybe even a bit grumpy about not being able to do what I want, I am forced to face the Biblical truths about joy. But as always, herein I discover something.

First and foremost, joy and happiness are not at all the same thing. Happiness being the external, circumstance-focused and fleeting good feeling. While joy is a deep-seated, abiding and foundational sense of well-being. I love Strong's definition of chara, the Greek word most often used for joy in the NT - "calm delight." Or the BDB definition of simchah, the common Hebrew word for joy - "gladness." So am I happy that I can't go riding this morning? No. But based on my understanding (that I now have) of God's better purpose for me today, namely understanding His joy, I can take a calm settled delight in Him, and I can be glad in that. Perhaps not happy, but most certainly joyful.

And I see another truth at work in the Biblical evidence regarding joy and happiness. That being that joy, as defined by God and as exhibited by Him, can only be produced in the life of a person by His Spirit. Indeed, it is a primary fruit of His Spirit (Gal. 5:22). So what this says to me is that believers in Christ, those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are the only people on the face of the earth capable of having real joy. Everyone else has to settle for happiness, or at best a striving to achieve this inner sense of calm joy but never being able to find it, apart from Jesus Christ. Maybe this helps explain the endless pursuits of pleasure and stuff and wealth and power and a million other things that the people of the world engage in. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, "the pursuit of happiness." An externally based and temporary state of pleasure, instead of an internally based and eternal state of well-being. For the person apart from Christ, there is nothing else.

So as I sit here in my office this morning with the clouds and rain outside, and my bike waiting anxiously in the garage for me, I am not happy that my plans have been disrupted for the day. But, I am joyful in the knowledge that my God had something better for me this morning, and in fact He does for eternity as well. For my ultimate good, and His glory. I can rejoice in that settled, eternal truth. God's sovereign grace again. I am still amazed.

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