Happiness is overrated and overemphasized. It is incessantly being sold to us, normally by those who believe this life is all there is or by retailers looking to profit from our pursuit of happiness. We’re told, “You deserve this!” or “All your friends have it, so you should too!”
Even many Christians fuel the commercialization of Christmas by getting caught on the holiday hamster wheel. That’s why Meet The Need is encouraging us to #GiveAnEternalGift – experiencing and passing along the joy of Jesus’ birth to those who’ve forgotten the “reason for the season”.
Shouldn’t our goal be joy this Christmas? But are we instead just shooting for happiness – looking forward to spending time with family and exchanging gifts?
Joy is found in the eternal gift of salvation by God’s grace, not Christmas gifts. Joy is found in our Savior, not Santa. Joy is found in faith, not religion. Joy is found in compassion, not consumerism – believing, not buying. Joy remains regardless of circumstances – happiness is obliterated by misfortune. Joy lasts forever – happiness is only temporary at best.
Yet most Americans exchange joy for an outside shot at happiness. They look for happiness in things that can never bring true joy:
- Romance – The excitement of a new relationship one day fizzles into a sense of normalcy and often complacency, leaving some wondering whether the grass may be greener in other pastures.
- Reconciliation – Eternal joy is found in the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Unlike the intimacy experienced between two people, God’s love for us never fades or fails.
- Popularity – When there’s a buzz surrounding us, we relish the 15 minutes of fame. However, notoriety is fleeting and attention spans are fickle. The question is…when we’re out of the spotlight and back at home looking in the mirror, what do we see?
- Purpose – Joy comes in knowing God’s opinion of us never changes. Therefore, we play to an audience of One, humbly serving and sharing Christ with others even though they may no longer look up to us if we “stoop to the level” of a servant.
- Power – Exerting influence and authority gives us a false sense that we’re in control. At some point age, upheaval, betrayal or circumstances outside our purview will conspire to overthrow or undermine what little control we actually had.
- Potential – There is joy in surrendering control to the One who really had it all along. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus” reestablishes the proper and intended order, relieving us of the responsibility for trying to force God’s hand to ensure our desired outcomes, which likely go against His will.
- Friends – Rarely are we happier than when we are with our closest friends. Companionship is one of God’s greatest gifts, but it was never meant to supplant our relationship with Him. Friends may move out of town, let you down, or even pass away.
- Father – Joy is found in understanding the Lord will always be there. He’s the most reliable, trustworthy and dependable friend we’ll ever have. He’s also a jealous God, expecting us to put nothing, or no one, ahead of Him.
- Money – Most believe a sudden windfall would bring happiness, but studies show lottery winners typically return to their previous state of mind after the initial exuberance subsides.
- Meaning – Joy is a result of living consistent with our Designer’s plan for us – the Great Commission. “You cannot serve both God and money” – choosing the latter is the road to momentary pleasure, but eternal bankruptcy.
- Success – Ambitious workaholics sacrifice time with family, God and friends, believing wealth and early retirement will bring happiness.
- Significance – Joy is impacting the world for Christ in the few years we have on this earth. The Great Commission may involve losing everything in the here and now, yet gaining what “moths cannot destroy…and thieves cannot break in and steal”. That’s success in God’s eyes.
- Transportation – The initial thrill of a new car wears off after a few weeks, becoming just a way to get to our next destination.
- Transformation – The joy of being delivered from the brink of Hell to the doorstep of Heaven gives us a new (yet lasting) lease on life.
- Vacations – Many begin planning their next vacation the minute they return from the last one. Battling the emptiness of life without Jesus, they subsist only by making sure they have something to look forward to,
- Victory – Joy isn’t found in relaxation but in “pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. There’s no rest when you’re a disciple of Jesus – at every corner there are fresh opportunities to win souls to Christ.
- Partying – Some jump from one social engagement to another in a vain attempt to fill their schedules…and their “God-shaped hole”.
- Peace – Joy is “the peace of God that transcends all understanding…that “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Contentment in Christ means not having to book ourselves solid to avoid thinking deeper thoughts about how God would prefer we spend our time.
- Escapism – Alcohol and drugs provide a temporary reprieve for those who can’t cope without hope. Once the effects wear off, they need to do it again quickly or risk confronting the harsh reality of a joy-free existence – and soon addicts get hooked.
- Evangelism – Joy is finding fulfillment through a Prayer/Care/Share lifestyle, dedicated to worship and witness, not recreational self-medication.
- Religion – Hope once found in a man-made set of rules and empty promises to make our lives better disappears when difficult times eventually come.
- Relationship – Joy is knowing Christ as Lord and Savior, loving and serving Him no matter what the cost. That kind of faith endures through good and bad.
- Worldliness – Countless shiny lures grab our attention and provide short-term happiness, yet distract us from all that would bring authentic, impermeable joy. To no avail, we seek quick earthly fixes to satisfy an innate hunger for meaning and relational intimacy that can only be satisfied by loving and serving our Creator.
- World-Changing – Joy is picturing all those who will be in Heaven because of how the Lord used you to reach them. Joy is the privilege of being chosen by God to be an instrument of hope and peace in a broken, fallen world.
It’s Your Turn
Experience joy – and introduce that possibility to those discouraged in their pursuit of happiness. #GiveAnEternalGift before Christmas Day by:
- Performing an act of kindness for a coworker, neighbor or complete stranger and watch it open the door to sharing the Gospel.
- Posting a pic and tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #GiveAnEternalGift to inspire others.
- Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.