Happiness…People are always looking for happiness. But happiness is fleeting. Happiness is conditional. It is in response to what is occurring in our lives that makes us happy. Let’s face it, sometimes there is nothing to be happy about.
Joy is what we should seek. Joy comes from within. It is constant. Even in the worst of situations, when there is no happiness to be found, we can experience joy.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
But how does one obtain joy?
Philippians chapter four gives us a look at how we, as Christians, can have joy in the absence of happiness.
Look at verses four through five:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
So the first thing we must do is to rejoice always! Not just when we feel good about life, but in every situation. Not an easy thing to do! Sometimes, we just want to feel sorry for ourselves, to pout. Sometimes we want to wallow in our grief. I know, I have been there. But Paul tells us to rejoice anyway.
Next, we are instructed to let our gentleness be evident to all. Our gentleness….not our impatience, or roughness, or sharp tongued better than thou attitude. When I am happy, no problem. But what happens when I am mad, or sad? Can I still maintain an air of gentleness, meekness, and patience? Ah, that is the challenge.
Let me get this straight, Paul says we are to rejoice even when we don’t fell like rejoicing, and be kind when we don’t feel like being kind. How is that possible?
Moving on, verse six and seven give us more insight into this troubling guidance.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Do not be anxious about anything. Easy, right?
Let’s look deeper.
Take the word anxious. What do we know about that word?
The dictionary says that it is mental distress or to be greatly worried.
So verse six says – do not be anxious, or rather don’t worry. Even better – don’t worry about anything! Ever! How can we do that when there is so much to worry about?
Paul goes on to tell us how.
By prayer and supplication – wait. Supplication? What does that mean?
Supplication – humble prayer, entreaty, or petition
It just means to ask.
“You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2
So just ask. Ask God in every situation, no matter how big or how small, ask Him.
But there is a catch.
We are to ask Him with a thankful heart. Thanking Him even before we receive an answer.
Then what will happen?
Verse seven goes on to say that God will give us peace, peace greater than our understanding. This does not mean He gives us what we want, but whatever His answer, we will have peace.
This peace guards our hearts and minds.
Think of it this way- our heart is our soul. Our mind is our knowledge and feelings.
Why do we need to guard them?
The enemy is out there trying to make us afraid. Trying to make us doubt God. He will constantly try to make us stumble, to put bad thoughts in our minds – thoughts of self-doubt, depression, self-hate.
If we take everything to God, and give it all to Him, He gives us peace, and the devil has no power over our soul or our thoughts. But we have to obey God always and seek His will, not our own.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3
Okay, so we are to rejoice in every situation, be kind and gentle, and give all our worries to God. That is quite a list. But Paul gives us another step toward finding joy. Verse eight tells us to think upon only what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. If anything can be found that is praiseworthy, dwell on that.
“The best memory is that which forgets nothing, but injuries. Write kindness in marble and write injuries in the dust.” Persian Proverb
If you do as you have learned from Paul, the God of peace will be with you. He will grant you peace. And where there is peace, there is found joy. Joy that permeates into your very being. Even in the face of trauma and trials, joy fills your heart with the peace that passes all understanding.
Lastly, Paul demonstrate to us this peace as he writes:
“For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12
Contentment in all situations, knowing that God is in control, that He supplies every need, and that He walks beside us through the fires of adversity.
And here in verse thirteen, Paul gives us the answer to how we can do what is necessary to obtain this joy beyond measure.
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
It is not by our strength, but through God’s strength that we are able to experience joy even in the dark valleys of life. No matter what disappointments or trials you must face, give it all to God. Let Him work it out in His way and in His time. Don’t hold on to your burden, but leave it at the cross. Then your heart will be open to experience true joy.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 19
I have faced dark days. On September 11, 2001, my father was killed by terrorists. In the aftermath that followed, my faith was shaken to its very foundation. Through it all, God has shown me His benevolent nature as He walked each step with me. Truly, there is joy in the Lord.
Join me as I share with you a message of hope: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).