Tidings of Joy

How joyful are you feeling right now? Yes, joyful. Are you rejoicing this Christmas season?

No? Not so happy about the long lines in the stores, the extra traffic on the road, the additional expenses resulting in more month left at the end of the money? But it’s Christmas! Joy to the world. God rest ye merry, gentlemen. Tidings of comfort and joy. Or not.

Some say the rational, intelligent thing to do is to face reality, put aside the manufactured holiday happiness sold in the big box stores, and realize that our messy world is reason enough to wipe the grins off our faces.

They’re right.

The world is a mess. We can’t purchase happiness in the gift aisle of Walmart. And walking around with permanent grins plastered on our faces will label us naïve and oblivious to reality.

But joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is not dependent on the calendar or the number of gifts under the tree or the state of current events. Joy is the fruit of a life that confidently trusts God’s sovereignty and understands that He is in control, despite appearances.

Joy is not found in circumstances, it is found in God Himself. He is our joy and our delight (Psalm 43:3-4). Joy springs from the knowledge that God has provided for our greatest need – the need to be restored to Him.

When the angel proclaimed Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, he introduced his news by saying, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). This good news was the announcement of the birth of the Savior – the Messiah – who would save us from our sins.

I love everything about the Christmas season. Even the long lines, the traffic, and the organized chaos that typifies the month of December cannot diminish my joy in knowing that Christmas is not a holiday. It’s a birthday – the birthday of my Savior. Happiness is found in happenings, but joy is found in Jesus. No one can take Him – or my joy – away from me.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

How can you reflect the joy of your salvation this Christmas season?

Money CAN Buy You Happiness!

All my life I’ve heard people say money cannot buy happiness.
Are they wrong?

Two professors at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs set out to determine whether the saying is true. They analyzed 450,000 survey responses to learn if money can, indeed, buy happiness.

The research report defined “emotional well-being” as the emotional qualities of everyday experience, and “life evaluation” as the thoughts people have about their life. The study indicated that income and education are closely related to life evaluation, but factors such as health and loneliness are more strongly related to daily emotions.

So, can money buy happiness?

The researchers determined that emotional well-being was related to income, but the level of happiness did not increase beyond an annual income of $75,000. They concluded that “high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.” It seems that money can buy a type of happiness that involves satisfaction, but not necessarily pleasant emotions.

Even if money could buy happiness, is happiness what we really want?

The answer to this question seems like an obvious yes. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Certainly not me. And yet…if my happiness is dependent on my circumstances, what does that say about me? That my well-being hangs on temporary and shifting circumstances? That my happiness is controlled by the consequences of events and the influences of people who may not care about me or even know me? It’s a rollercoaster way of life. I know, I’ve tried living that way, and it’s no party!

If my emotional well-being is going to depend on anything, I want it to depend on something that won’t capriciously shift or on someone who is always faithful, dependable, and trustworthy.

Joy is what I’m after. The joy of knowing to whom I belong. The God of the universe calls me His child, and welcomes me to call Him Father. The joy of knowing He is sovereign. As Kay Arthur is fond of saying, nothing touches my life that hasn’t first been filtered through His fingers of love. This doesn’t mean I won’t have problems. Trust me, I’ve had my share, and then some! But it does mean I can rest in the knowledge that what God allows in my life is for His glory and my ultimate and eternal good.

Money may or may not buy happiness, but Jesus Christ has purchased my joy. It’s this joy that motivates me to teach and to write so others might have it as well.

How about you?
What or who is your source of happiness?
What or who is your source of joy?

Time for Happiness

For most children in school the Christmas break seems eons away from September. After Christmas vacation, the Easter break feels like it will never arrive. For me, the worst was always after Easter. Summer vacation was tantalizingly close, yet far enough away that the waiting was almost painful.

So when did things change? When did time begin moving faster than children at the sound of an ice cream truck’s bell? I don’t remember the precise moment, but gradually—almost imperceptibly—the pages of the calendar turned with an increasing frequency that bordered on illegal.

Until I began submitting work for publication. Then it felt like time stood still. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, as I waited for responses to my submissions.

Anticipation makes us eager for the next big thing, whatever it is. Children yearn for Christmas. Pre-adolescents can’t wait to be teens. Teens crave to be adults. Adults in the workforce long for retirement.

The result of all this wishing and wanting is that we end up wishing our lives away. We’re so focused on tomorrow and what tomorrow will bring, that we fail to enjoy the blessings of today. Our happiness is based on happenings that have happened and happenings that haven’t happened yet!

This does not mean that we should not plan ahead. The Bible tells us, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5) and “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).

God wants us to plan ahead, but He wants us to leave room in our plans for Him. Proverbs also says, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” and “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (16:3, 9).

I intend to continue setting goals and planning for tomorrow. I also intend to leave room for God to show up in my todays as well as in my tomorrows. As I do, I have a feeling the passage of time won’t seem quite so fast. My happiness quotient may not increase, but my joy, based on trusting Jesus Christ for the results, will skyrocket.

How quickly is time passing for you?