Joy can sometimes be elusive, don’t you think?
Generally, I am a happy person, and I think that most of you wouldn’t describe yourselves as misers and grouches, either. Yet, somewhere, hidden deep in our back thoughts, is the idea that keeps creeping up – “I’d be completely happy if…” There seems to always be something or other keeping us from experiencing true joy.
For every stage in life we set up parameters that we measure our happiness by.
“I’d be happy if I could finally finish college.”
“I’d be happy if I got married.”
“I’d be happy if I got a certain job.”
“I’d be happy if we bought a house.”
You know what’s my picture of my complete happiness? Sergi and I having a beautiful home in the country, having 3-4 adorable children, all my family members being healthy and doing well, Sergi continuing to be successful and growing in his career, thriving in my favorite role of homemaker, writer, cook and tending a gorgeous garden, full of all kinds of amazing fruits and veggies. I know! What a lovely scene, right?
There’s a problem with this thinking though.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says it really well.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
Our definition of happiness keeps changing, doesn’t it? It’s like a mirage, whenever we finally reach the place where we were sure we saw that sparkling water, it’s no longer there and has moved farther out of reach.
For years, I told myself “I’d be happy if I was a mother.” And I AM. I love being a mother, having that sweet little face light up with joy when he sees me above his crib, or hear his baby babbles, and I love seeing my husband in the role of a father. But you know what I tell myself now? “I’d be happy if I could only be certain that he will be with us forever. I’d be happy if we finalized the adoption and this beautiful little boy shared our last name. I’d be happy if I knew I would get to see him grow up and go to school, etc.”
When we tell ourselves that we’d be happy if we could get through college, once that is achieved, we want that perfect job, then a house, then a better house, etc. Does it ever stop?
Is it wrong to wish for more? Of course not. In fact, I am a strong believer in always striving for the better. If we don’t grow as individuals that is another problem altogether. I think it’s so important to dream, to grow, and achieve the things that we long for.
There is a difference though, in basing our happiness on something that can and will change though. Besides, a lot of things are out of our control anyway.
True joy comes from deep within, not based on circumstances.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject recently. Last month, I read about it in my devotions, check it out here.
One thing that really stood out to me in this devotional, is that when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they could eat from every tree except one. The devil used a very familiar tactic with Eve that we experience all the time now too.
“Rather than being thankful for what we do have, he points out what we don’t have. Think about it. Eve had at her disposal every tree in the Garden except one. Every one! That is a smorgasbord of goodness! But rather than being thankful, she bought the lie that the one thing she couldn’t have was the one thing that would make her happy. I would be happy if…”
I’m also reading a book by Nancy Leigh Demoss, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey To Joy. I’m excited to read it and so far, it’s great!
Genuine joy is a choice. Just like the kind of marriage you have is a choice you make every day, your attitude is something you choose every day too, like an outfit for the day. Imagine yourself standing in front of all the options in your closet and wondering, hmmm, will I put on crabbiness, depression, self-pity, jealousy, discontentment or will I choose joy? I know it’s a lame and corny comparison, but it gets the point across:).
Yes, I know that sometimes life is tough. It would be weird if you were jolly and laughing and smiling away if someone died in the family or you crashed your car. Even when we are grieving, experiencing loss or pain, we can still choose our outlook in that situation as well. I’ve had really dark days, when my world seemed crumbling down. Those are the times it’s completely appropriate to cry and be sad. Even then, instead of being in the depths of despair, we have an amazing God who will be there beside us.
In our regular day to day life, I want to learn to find joy in today and in my present situation. Instead of focusing on the fact that my Sergi and I haven’t had a full night of sleep since October, and just waiting for the time that the boys will be toddlers and will hopefully sleep through the night, I want to enjoy cuddling a newborn baby and enjoy their long naps during the day.
Instead of moaning and grumbling that I live in an apartment, I’ll enjoy the fact that my husband doesn’t need to mow the lawn and if our refrigerator breaks, we can call maintenance to come fix it or replace it. That doesn’t mean that we won’t happily be house hunting this summer though:). Yay!