Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Joy Does Not Equal Happiness

When you ask anyone what they want in life, one of the more popular answers will be "happiness."

When you speak with couples early in their relationships, and ask why they are with their significant other, he/she will almost always say "they make me happy."

Even the wise sage Bobby McFerrin capitalized on this emotion: don't worry, be happy.

Easier said (or sang) than done.

We desire happiness, but if we're honest, there's a great deal of time in our life spent unhappily.

Happiness is contingent upon our circumstances.  We're generally happy when we have our way.  Conversely, we're unhappy when things don't go our way.

One definition of the word "happy" says this: delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.

Sometimes we can confuse happiness for joy.  While they are similar, I believe there's a rather profound difference in the two words.

The same dictionary defines the word "joy" as follows: the emotion of great delight caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. Read that again.  Now re-read the definition of "happy".  They're not the same.

In "C.A.'s abridged dictionary," I would define happiness as a feeling you have when you get what you want.  Joy, on the other hand, is much deeper.  While happiness is typically something we feel when something happens to us, joy is something working in and through us.    

The source of happiness is clearly my circumstances.  I am healthy.  I got a bonus at work.  My son hit a home run.  I got ten cents off at the pump with my membership card today.  The sun is out. I got to eat at my favorite restaurant.  My boss told all of us to cut out of work an hour early.  I am happy.

The source of pure joy, however, is not dependent upon my circumstances.  It is a gift given by the One to whom we need to be anchored. Especially when things do not go our way.

Consider the following scriptures that speak of joy:

The hope of the righteous brings joy. Proverbs 10:28    

There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. Psalm 43:4

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:10

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. James 1:2

Say what?  When trouble comes my way, it's an opportunity for what?  For anger? For revenge? For scorn? For bitterness? No. For Joy.

I know!  I am with you!  It just doesn't seem to make sense.  But, when does God ever work in ways that make sense to us?

But, here's the deal in a nutshell.  When we consider that the source of our joy is the Lord, the picture begins to clear a little.  When we then consider that our Lord is the source of hope, we are yet a step closer.  

This is precisely how we can be so distraught, yet remain joyful, in the midst of a storm. Our hope is not in our salary.  Our hope is not in our spouse.  Our hope is not in our kids. Our hope is not in our health.  Our hope is in the Lord God Almighty, and was given to us through Jesus Christ.

I'd like to leave you with words from someone who knew intimately about the joy that only comes from the Father.  His name is Paul.  He killed Christians. But, then Jesus confronted him.  Blinded him. Stripped away everything he knew. Then, he filled him up with Himself, transforming this "chief of all sinners" to the man who, aside from Jesus himself, had the most profound impact on the spread of the Gospel. 

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Opportunity Costs

You may not realize it, but there is a cost associated with everything you do.  I am not talking about money here, although many times our decisions do involve dollars and cents. No, I am referring to opportunity costs - those things we give up when we make a decision. Each and every choice we make costs us something we are NOT doing.

In terms of our budgets, the decision to buy a car likely means we cut back on eating out, trips to the movie theater, or a family vacation.  Those are all costs of buying a car, in addition to the amount you are paying your bank or a dealership.

But, while financial decisions are concrete examples of costs that hit our wallets, there's a resource far more valuable in terms of opportunity costs: time.  When we choose to spend our time one way, we relinquish our ability to spend it another way. And that means the stakes are high.  Sometimes we can earn or make the money back that we spend.  But, we cannot get the time back.
  • When you choose to spend an hour browsing the internet, what are you giving up?
  • When you live on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, etc - what are you surrendering?
  • When you watch Judge Judy, Days of Our Lives, Dr. Phil, and Ellen each day, what are you missing out on?
Conversely, there are also costs associated with our supposed "wise" choices in life:
  • When you go on a four-mile hike, you may sweat, ache, and burn - you are giving up relaxation.
  • When you serve at a concession stand at a high school football game, you are allowing parents watch their kids play...but there are other things you could be doing - Friday night movie? A night out with the boys? A date night with your wife?
  • When you coach your son or daughter's team, you are pouring into kids who need positive influences in their lives.  But, you are sacrificing some things as well - sitting on the sidelines as a fan, not having to worry about lineup cards, dealing with umpires/officials, planning for practices and games.
Generally speaking, I don't believe people weigh their choices.  Most times we just fly by the seat of our pants.  We are not intentional.  We make choices in the moment, rather than contemplating the possible ramifications of our decisions.  And, in the end, most of us just wind up doing what appeals to us the most.  Meanwhile, we surrender our ability to make calculated investments in the lives of those we love the most.

So, here's the question:  What is greater - the rewards you receive for the small sacrifices you make, or the potential you've squandered by chasing things that matter little?

Everything has a cost.  You just may never see it until it's too late.