Friday, March 4, 2011

Happiness

Today I thought I'd post an excerpt from my book ("Grace In Time Of Need"). This chapter is about something I need to be reminded of often.
I hope it will be an encouraging reminder for you today too.
Blessings,
-Joanna


Happiness

When I was a kid, we used to sing a song about happiness that went something like…Happiness is catching a firefly, eating a pizza, five shiny marbles…. I guess as children it’s easy to find happiness in little things like fireflies and marbles.

I was a cheerful, optimistic kid, always seeing the rainbow in the storm clouds. Time and circumstances can change us though. After several years of non-stop trial, with no light at the end of the tunnel, I eventually lost all optimism. I had to work hard to find any cheer. Not that I wanted to be a gloomy, pessimistic person, but continual pain and hardship take their toll on everyone, even natural optimists.

One day I looked up and realized I couldn’t remember the last time I was happy – not just cheerful, but really, truly happy. It kind of scared me. I had concluded years before that God’s main goal for me wasn’t that I’d be happy but that I’d be transformed to be more like Jesus. I had accepted that. I knew pursuing happiness above all else results in more misery. Still, something inside me mourned that my life had gone by for so long without experiencing happiness.

For me, happiness was always connected with my circumstances. But if that’s what made me happy, I knew I’d have to say good-bye to happiness for a long time because my circumstances weren’t going to change any time soon.

One week as I read through Psalms, it seemed every Psalm had some reference to being glad. I was used to verses telling me to rejoice and praise God – that I could do, by His grace. Now I saw those other words, the ones telling me to be glad. That stopped me in my tracks. I actually tried to ignore it. Still, every day I read a Psalm, and every day there it was – God’s Word telling me to be glad!

"Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!" (Ps. 32:11)

I couldn’t take it anymore. I said, “Lord, you know how awful my circumstances are. I’ve accepted them as part of your sovereign plan. I’ve even given thanks for what you’re doing through them. I’ve experienced your peace and joy, knowing that I’m in your hands. But, please don’t ask me to give up my “right” to be sad. Please don’t ask me to be glad in the midst of this!”

I didn’t hear any audible response to my plea, and I continued to struggle in my heart. At last I told God that if He wanted me to be glad, He’d have to do it because I just couldn’t.

Later that week I was at the beach. As I stared out at the waves, I saw a group of dolphins close to shore. It looked like they were body-surfing. They would jump as a wave crested and “ride” it in before going under again. They seemed to be having so much fun! It was incredible! I know dolphins are supposed to be friendly, fun-loving creatures, but I’d never seen anything like this before.

Then I heard God whisper, “Can’t you be like those dolphins? Can’t you be happy in the ocean of my love?”

I began to cry. I had been mourning so much over my painful circumstances that I’d missed God calling me to a deeper level of happiness than I had ever experienced. 1 Peter 1:8 says, "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy...." Even though we can’t see Jesus, we know Him. And knowing Him is the only source of inexpressible joy – of gladness – of genuine and lasting happiness.

I believe God does want us to be happy, but not with the shallow earthly happiness we experience from pleasant circumstances. He wants to give us His heaven-sent happiness – the kind that comes from knowing Him closely. His happiness comes from realizing that, like the dolphins, though we still have troubles, we are surrounded by an ocean of God’s love! Nothing can ever change that. So nothing can ever take away our happiness in Him.

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (Ps. 90:14)
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have not had the same trial as you, but I can relate so well to what you shared. I, too, had a scary revelation one day that I couldn't remember the last time I actually laughed....I forgot what it felt like to be happy and care free. Years of chronic pain, exhaustion from anemia, coupled with other losses left me on survival mode. It happened. God was faithful to come to me in that dark place and He was lovingly persistent to get at what He was after, in spite of my many evasions. Thank you for recording your journey so that others can find comfort in lessons learned.

Ruth Patton

Joanna K. Harris said...

Thank you for sharing Ruth. Praise God for His faithful, pursuing love! I'm so thankful for the joy He gives! =)