I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about joy lately. This is not an accident. Our church just spent five weeks going through Tommy Newberry’s “40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life.” We read the daily devotionals, heard sermons on Sunday morning, taught the concepts to our students and (of course, if you know me well) wore the wristband.
I have created a joy-filled playlist on Spotify.
I memorized Philippians 4:8.
I renamed my youngest child LaJoya.
(Okay only two of those statements are true. I’ll let you be the judge.)
So…is it working? Am I morphing into a more joyful person? Am I more like Jesus than I was 33 days ago?
Yes, but maybe not in the ways I expected.
In working out the truths of Philippians 4 with middle school students, I have focused on one simple takeaway from all this effort:
Happiness is an emotion. Joy is a choice.
When we look at it that way, we realize that our conditional responses to events and people around us are not under our control. It is very difficult to choose to be happy. But joy, which Newberry defines as “the sum and substance of emotional health”, is possible.
Wondering what Jesus would do? Check out Hebrews 12:1-3:
“For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…”
We know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus was capable of deep sorrow. The night of His arrest, He was anguished to the point of asking His Father for a Plan B. I fail to detect any happiness in His progression from the Last Supper to the grave. Yet there is joy. An understanding and acceptance that His mission was bigger than the circumstances of the moment (if the GodMan can make Himself nothing for the sake of the mission, are we not capable of much smaller steps of faith?).
He walked through it with true, everlasting, God-ordained joy in the foreground. The path to joy was brutal, to say the least, but for Him it was worth it.
Am I happier than I was a month ago? Probably not. But ever so slightly, I am learning to embrace the joy of the mission; the joy of the journey. Just one verse before the famous 4:8, Paul calls it “the peace…which transcends understanding.”
Transcendent it is. And I am better for the journey.
Written by Rich Herold (reposted from the ABNY blog with permission)