by Cheri Dale
One of Safe Haven’s dreams is to help people who do not know that God has the answers to all their problems begin to live full of His JOY! Do I mean to be happy? Or is Joy something different? If so, how does JOY differ from happiness?
Well, the American Dream is a cultural formula for happiness. Get a good education, work hard, get married, have kids, buy the big house, the luxury SUV, invest in the kids college fund. Retire with a big-bucks investment portfolio so we can do whatever we like, when and how we like. So we drive down the road in recreational vehicles of all kinds, build large ‘retirement’ homes inhabited by two people and a pack of pets. We travel the world, over-eat at fine restaurants and pursue endless hobbies. This is all designed to give us happiness.
I remember going to the beach with family and friends some years ago. I checked on a family member surf fishing to see if he was catching our dinner. He sat there in a beach chair, his pole in one hand, a cigarette in another and a six-pack of beer in a cooler next to him. He looked at me and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” In a little over a decade he was dead. Why? His idea of happiness killed him. He committed suicide.
That’s sobering, isn’t it?
Well then, if its not the American Dream, what is Joy? Joy is the contentment in Christ’s loving presence that allows us to endure the journey of this life. Joy is something so valuable Jesus left Heaven to be born as a poor, human being, a servant, because of the Joy set before Him (Philippians 2:7). He endured the cross in spite of its shame, rose from the dead and has gone back to heaven (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus wants all believers to have His Joy so our Joy will be complete (John 15:11, John 17:13). His Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and is experienced even in the midst of severe suffering (1 Thessalonians 1:6; James 1:2). This Joy, as an expression of belief in Jesus Christ, qualifies believers to share in the inheritance of His people in the kingdom of light — eternal life (Colossians 1:12).
The Old Testament speaks of Joy repeatedly. The Psalms are full of David’s Joyful prayers in the midst of suffering. Psalm 30 is one of my favorites. David has experienced a deathly sickness. His enemies are hoping he will die. David admits that when he was well, ‘felt secure,’ he felt he could never be shaken. The illness showed him otherwise. By humbly turning to God for help his wailing turned into dancing. God removed his clothes of mourning and gave him Joy instead.
The New Testament tells of the Macedonian Churches who were undergoing severe trials and extreme poverty. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 8:2 that because of their Joy in what Christ Jesus had done for them, they gave generously when the Jerusalem churches were also suffering.
How many American Dream chasers would do this? When I pursued the American Dream, I didn’t tithe or give to charities. I had lots of credit card debt and lived in a house I soon couldn’t afford. I fretted about how to pay the bills my lifestyle created. I wasn’t even remotely happy. It wasn’t until my world fell apart and I turned to God for help that I began to glimpse the Joy He wanted me to have.
Turning to God through Scripture study and prayer revealed the difference between happiness and Joy. I tithe and give charitably. I am debt free! Bills are paid on time and in full. I live modestly, but with great JOY!
Safe Haven’s dream is to help people know the difference between happiness and the Joy Jesus Christ can give through the Holy Spirit. We do that by testifying to our Joy! When others hear the suffering we have endured it’s hard for them to believe we are grateful for the pain. Our modest lifestyle is surprising. But when they see the gift of Joy we have received is real, they want Joy too!