The thing we have trouble understanding is that joy is not happiness. And the world's idea of joy and God's are vastly disparate. The worldly way of thinking about joy is based on emotion and circumstance. But the thing is emotions can change quicker than the weather here in Prescott Valley. Sunny one moment, pouring rain the next. The world's idea of joy usually depends on our circumstances. And circumstances change all the time. Happiness is fleeting, transitory. Here one moment, gone the next; like the sun covered by the rain clouds.
As I said, happiness and joy are two greatly different things. Happiness is emotional. It's that high we feel when circumstances seem perfect; the planets align and we get a smile on our face. Our child gets into that college that they applied for. The tv we want just went on sale. Heading into the store and we find a parking spot right up front! Oh, we are happy! Until we find out how much tuition is for that university. Until the kids are rough-housing and they throw something and shatter the tv screen. Until we saunter out of the grocery store and see that some jerk hit our car and left without a word. Happiness; temporary, momentary, ephemeral. Fading away like a wisp of smoke.
Joy does not depend on circumstances. It does not depend on our position, our finances, our lifestyle or our prospects. It all depends on proximity. Our proximity to God. Our being in His presence. Joy is a deep abiding thing. Hard to explain, but an indwelling sense of peace, comfort, satisfaction. I have to admit I struggle with joy. I struggle with happiness in general. I am an introvert with a melancholy personality. I tend to overthink things and then stay in that place. Kind of a double whammy, added to the fact that my upbringing with alcoholic parents put me in a very wary, apprehensive place. I don't remember smiling a lot. I don't remember a lot of laughter. I don't remember a lot of joy, let alone happiness. It is still often a struggle for me. I wouldn't say that I get depressed, more that I see the world through blue-colored glasses, not the rose-colored ones that so many others wear. But I am working on that. I am taking to heart that verse above, "in His presence is fullness of joy."
I woke up the other morning feeling off. I couldn't put a finger on what was wrong, but I felt kind of somber, wistful. I could have stayed in that place like I would normally tend to, but I spoke that scripture over myself. In His presence is fullness of joy. I am a Christian. I am a Christ-follower. As a Christ-follower I am a child of God. As His child I have a right to be in His presence. Hebrews 4:14-16 "Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help" (MSG). He has made a way for us to the Father; in fact He is the only way. But the amazing thing about that is that we have that right, that ability to enter into His presence every day, all day. So as His child, at that moment I decided to take His mercy, to accept the help. I made the choice to be in His presence. To, in a sense become entrenched in Him, like a soldier entrenched in a foxhole; safe, secure.
Where happiness is an emotion, joy is a choice. It is the choice to enter into His presence. It is a choice to not look at the transitory things, the passing things, but to look at the promises of the Father. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," Romans 14:17 (KJV). It is God's desire that you walk in joy; Romans 15:13, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." (KJV) Both of these scriptures mention the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit. That is how we stay in God's presence, so that our joy may be full. It is through the power of His Spirit leading us, directing us, comforting us. He whispers into our hearts, don't fret, believe. Don't doubt, trust. Don't let your mind stay on things of this world, remember His word. Don't back away, dig in. When the enemy is trying to steal your joy, don't let him. Remember that greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Got that? He that is in you. In you, in your presence. You are in His presence. And in that place is joy. Entrenched in His Spirit, rooted in His peace, firmly in His presence, fortified with His joy.
Are you in God's presence today? Or are you in the presence of all your worries? Is your being today dictated by that stack of bills? Is your existence today based on what's on the news? It is your choice. To live in the past with frustration and regret. To live in the future with fear and worry. Or to live in the present with our great and mighty God. Choose to live in the present with Him. Choose to live IN His presence and He will give you that great and wonderful gift of joy. So that you may be filled to overflowing.