It’s what we all want in life.
But, what is joy?
Is it a child opening their gifts from Santa on Christmas morning? Is it lying on a sandy beach soaking up the sun’s rays and listening to the ocean waves? Is it sipping warm apple cider while crunching through the new fallen leaves? Is it getting that promotion at work or that “A” on your exam? Is it coffee and creamer in the morning? Is it having lots of money in your bank account? Is it falling in love? Is it holding your baby for the first time and finally being able to look into their eyes?
Undoubtedly so, we all have that “happy place” and claim that nothing makes us happier than that. It is our escape from reality. It is our escape from the truths that make us cringe and want to crawl back in bed. Our happy place though, can be quite unrealistic and demanding. For example, my happy place is taking those final steps up to the summit of a Colorado 14er. The wind is whirling all around causing my face and hands to freeze, but the adrenaline (and lack of breathable air at the top) makes it unnoticeable. All I notice is the view- mountains that stretch across what looks like the whole world, mountains that proclaim the majesty of our Savior and creativity of our creator, mountains that mute out the very things that constantly consume our attention and turn us away from what matters. That sight, feeling, sense of peace, and knowing that I made it to the summit is one of the most fulfilling moments, and it is one that brings me pure joy. Here’s the problem though, if I were dreaming up my one and only “happy place” it would also have to include all of my family. All of a sudden, my happy place becomes a little less realistic as I dream of six year old climbing up to an altitude of 14,000 feet.
On top of Mount Lincoln at an altitude of 14, 290 feet
Obviously I am aware that this is unrealistic but this is what we as Christians tend to do everyday to God and to ourselves. We set standards and claim that we won’t be fully satisfied or happy until we get what we want. Each day we create new happy places as we see things that we want in life. It is a problem that leads to constant discontentment with our life, ourselves, and God.
Here’s another example of an unrealistic happy place. I had expectations for what college was going to be like, and in my head I created a scenario that I thought would make me happy and therefore it was something I wanted. I thought that in coming to college I would flourish and suddenly become the person God wanted me to be. I thought I would have a big group of friends that I would do everything with. I thought I would find the man of my dreams here. I thought I would get connected in all the different clubs my school had to offer. I thought that these would be the best few years of my life.
Once again, notice that my happy place doesn’t include any trials or moments of hurt, anger, and stress. My happy place is really a utopia and therefore, is nonexistent. I will also tell you that my happy place did not come true in any form or fashion. The struggle of being away from my family and adapting to this different lifestyle is no easy feat for me. It has been the most difficult year and a half and I am sure that the struggle is not over yet.
The first two months of this semester were hard. I mean really hard. It seemed like I was getting shot at from all different directions and everywhere I turned there was another bullet soaring towards me ready to take me down. I was emotionally, spiritually, and physically spent and felt like I had nothing more to offer the world, myself, or God. I felt empty. I had always been an extremely joyful person and I had always been able to find joy in the littlest of things, but this time it was different. I couldn’t find that joy anywhere anymore and I felt like a zombie. Each day I woke up and it was the same. I went through the motions wondering where my real personality was. I wondered where I had gone.
I remember calling my dad one night and complaining about all that was wrong in my life. I was at my wits end and couldn’t seem to find happiness in anything around me. I felt like God had stripped me of all that ever mattered to me. God seemed to be so distant in my circumstances. To make it worse, He wasn’t filling me with joy anymore.
“ I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
My dad responded with something so simple, yet it spoke to me in such powerful ways. He told me that it is my choice whether or not I live joyfully and learn to find joy in life. God’s joy is always available to us, we just have to choose whether or not we want to take hold of it.
Photo Credit: Happily Hope
It was such a straightforward concept, but I had never been aware of it. Up until coming to Tennessee for school, I had lived the most joyful life because things were constantly going my way. I was extremely content with my circumstances; therefore, it was easy to find joy. College was the first time in my life that my circumstances led me down the path of discontentment and to a dead end that was deficient of joy. I had never had to make a conscious decision to live filled with joy, because it was easy to. This was the first time in my life that it wasn’t easy to live filled with joy and now I had the choice as to whether or not I wanted to take hold of it.
It is a vicious cycle. We create an unrealistic happy place in our mind and subconsciously decide that when our happy place comes true, we will be joyful and content. Over and over again, our expectations are not met and our life becomes drowned in discontentment while the joy washes away.
“The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectations of the wicked will perish.” Proverbs 10:28
Let that sink in.
Hope brings joy. Expectations will perish. In my eyes, “expectations of the wicked” can also be expectations that aren’t in line with God’s will and God’s desires. Unfortunately, I think all of my happy places would be considered “expectations of the wicked” because hopes and dreams of everything going perfect in my life doesn’t line up with God’s will for me. God’s will for my life is full of tragedy and triumph, broken hearts and love, and tears and laughs. The periods of life I wish I could avoid- trials and times of hurt, anger, and stress- are what mold me and shape me into the person God intended for me to be.
The good news is that while our happy places may perish, hope in the Lord can bring joy. Hope in the truth that He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Hope in the truth that He died for our sins. Hope in the truth that we are forgiven. Hope in the truth that He loves us. Hope in the truth that He will come again. Hope in the truth that we will get to spend eternity rejoicing with Him in heaven. Hope in these things, things that are true and grounded in His will, will bring us joy.
This doesn’t mean that we need to release all of our dreams and goals if they aren’t in the Bible or if they are a little out of reach. This means that while it is important to aspire to do great things, our joy needs to be found in Biblical truths rather than worldly events and wishes. We need to seek joy in the constant assurance of His goodness and promises, rather than seek joy in the unknown.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Photo Credit: Simply-divine-creation
This truth should make you want to stand up, shout, jump, and celebrate. The gift of a new day is immense and not to be taken for granted. This day is filled with promises to find joy in.
So what is joy?
It is opening His word each morning knowing that He is sitting beside you. It is walking down the road knowing that He is walking beside you. It is the moment of clarification when God speaks to you. It is the moment you feel Him lift the burdens off of your shoulders. It is the moment you are reminded that your sins are washed away. It is the promise of an eternal happy place.
Such a simple concept should change your attitude. The only way to accomplish this is to grab hold of the joy that is in front of you.
Consciously choose to live a life filled with joy not based on the fulfillment of your happy place, but rather based on the promise of an eternal happy place- one that far outdoes the happy place we dream up. If your life isn’t where you want it to be, push through the trials but do it with a joyful heart. Grabbing a hold of the joy will bring you happiness.
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
So go. Stand up. Stop sulking. Stop pouting. Let go of your happy place. Rejoice in His promises. Rejoice in the life you have been given. Go run and skip and leap. Proclaim His promises for the whole world to hear. Shout it from the mountain top. Smile. Laugh. Hug. Go chase down that joy that is offered, grab hold of it, and NEVER. LET. GO.
About the Author
Hi! My name is Morgan Colander. I am a junior at Lee University in Tennessee studying to be an elementary teacher. I am attempting to survive these college years as I learn to rely more on God and less on myself while being surrounded by new opportunities and decisions. College has presented itself with its difficulties- college budget, college dorms, college food, an endless list of things to do, and plenty of homesickness- but through it all, I have never been more dependent on God and realized how incapable I am to do life without Him. God, family, and friends are all I need to survive in life but some junior mints, a hike up a mountain, laughter, and some sarcasm definitely add some joy to the journey.