Americans live better than any other people on the planet, yet more Americans go to psychologists and psychiatrists than any other people on earth.
So what is the problem? I think it comes down to this: We’re seeking to be happy, but we’re going about it in the wrong way. For most people, happiness is entirely contingent on good things happening.
In other words, when things are going well, we’re happy. When they aren’t going well, we’re unhappy. This is the cycle of life.
The problem is that no matter how much you accumulate or how much you accomplish, you’re always going to come up a little bit short. No matter how beautiful you are, you never will be as beautiful as you want to be. Clothes never will be fashionable enough. Cars never will be fast enough. Houses never will be elaborate enough. Relationships never will be romantic enough or fulfilling enough.
Life is never full enough. That’s why Solomon said, “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content” (Ecclesiastes 1:8 NLT). It’s never enough. We’re always going to come up empty.
So what’s the answer?
C. S. Lewis said, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. . . . God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
In the New Testament Book of Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote about something better than happiness, at least the world’s version of happiness. It’s something called joy. Without question, joy is the dominant theme throughout.
When Paul wrote this epistle to the Philippians, he was living in a place of extreme discomfort to say the least. He’d been imprisoned for his faithful proclamation of the gospel. He was chained to a Roman guard. For a guy like Paul, that was very difficult to endure.
Paul was a go-getter. He was doer. He was the kind of guy who would get the job done. So for him to be immobilized would be very frustrating.
He knew a lot about suffering. Consider this statement he made: “Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. . . . I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm” (2 Corinthians 11:24–25, 27 NLT).
That wasn’t a plea for sympathy; it was a statement of fact. He was saying, “I know what it’s like to experience hardship.”
Yet there he was, writing to the Philippians about joy when he was in a situation where someone normally wouldn’t be very happy. In fact, this is probably the most buoyant, joyful, and happy letter that Paul ever wrote.
Another important element we find running through Philippians tells us how we can experience this joy. Paul refers to the mind, thinking, and remembering 16 times. In other words, the secret of joy is found in the way that we think.
No one can wave a magic wand over our lives and make our problems go away. We’re going to have problems. We’re going to have conflicts and difficulties. So if we want to be joyful, we’ll need to learn to look at things differently.
I’m not suggesting that Paul was advocating some kind of mind-over-matter or possibility thinking. This is something more theologically sound than that. It’s something very realistic and applicable.
But there are some clear conditions to experience this joy. A lot of people want the blessings of the Christian life without giving anything in exchange for it. They want to have the benefits, but they don’t want to meet the criteria.
We want to be happy and, if possible, joyful. But we want it our way. We want it on our own terms. That isn’t going to work.
Paul is saying we can’t live that way. If we want to experience the promises of joy found in Philippians, we must first be true believers, followers of Jesus Christ.
In the last chapter of Philippians, Paul wrote, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. . . . For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11, 13 NLT).
He was saying, “Whatever state I’m in, whatever place I’m in, I’m content.” Paul’s contentedness didn’t come from what he had but from whom he knew.
Maybe you’re not really happy today and certainly aren’t joyful. Maybe you’re facing some kind of crisis. Or maybe things are going reasonably well, and you don’t know why you’re so miserable.
God promises a deep-seated joy that can be with you no matter what you’re going through. But you can only find that joy if you’re a Christian.
How do you become a Christian? First of all, come to God and admit that you’re a sinner. Be sorry for your sin, be willing to turn from it, and put your complete faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Then He will pardon you and forgive you of every sin you’ve ever committed. He will make you a true believer. Then you can start experiencing true joy.
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Originally published at WND.com
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