Posted by: Postordinandy | May 6, 2010

Happiness to the world!?

The second fruit (or segment) of the Spirit mentioned in the list of characteristics that a Christian should display and inhabit is joy.

The first thing that we noted was the fact that joy seems a somewhat anachronistic word – not often used in everyday language.

This led us to the second thing: that, for many people, joy and happiness are the same thing – but that there are some significant differences between the two.

Happiness can be a transient thing; often dependent on our immediate circumstances, our grasp of happiness can be as thin and temporal as when we try to hold mist in our hands.

Joy is something that is somehow more organic, with deeper, stronger roots; dependent on something beyond the immediate and less affected by physicality. The kind of joy that the Spirit produces in those attached to Christ is an impressive gift from God, and one that can be found even in the midst of suffering. The Message translates the word ‘joy’ as exuberance about life – an infectious enthusiasm for the gifts that God lavishes on us each living moment.

We live in a world that promises happiness, and many will spend their whole lives searching for it, consuming it – often unable to find it in the quantity or quality they believe that they are entitled to. And this again is a key distinctive of joy: it is a bi-product of doing (or being a part of) something worthwhile, rather than an end to itself.

Happiness can exist in a vacuum, it can feed off the unhappiness of others, it is fleeting, it can be consumed like an MSG-filled Chinese dish – marvellous at the time, but not quite as satisfying as hoped; filling, but leaving us craving more after a short period of time. Joy is infectious, liberating and fulfilling.

As followers of Jesus, we have been set free from the short-term promises and half-truths of the world, This freedom and joy are co-dependent and mutually energising. True freedom gives a changed perspective; a God-given perspective breeds a realisation that things are not always as they appear; this realisation breeds in turn a joy that is able to embrace the bigger picture and rejoice in all circumstances. This is why tales of Christians praising God in the midst of terrible suffering and circumstances are possible.

We decided to ask the ‘shoe-gazing question’ (where have we seen God this week) through ‘the filter of joy’. It was fascinating to see how this subtly changed our perspective – the small things that sometimes feel SO small and insignificant grew in stature and import – simply because we were more able to realise their part in the wider story of what God is doing in our lives and community.


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