Happiness is Great, But Joy is Out of This World

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 17, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I want to take some time to tell you about my younger brother, First Lieutenant Jordan Ames of the United States Marine Corps. When I think about those who go through trying times, Jordan and a number of other military men and women that I’ve had the privilege to meet often come to mind. As you read this, Jordan is leading a group of men as they serve our country abroad. Jordan has a wife, along with six children who are all adopted. He will be deployed for the next several months and will most likely miss important events in the lives of his children, his wife’s birthday, their anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas during the time that he is gone. He’d be the first to tell you that things are easier, at least regarding keeping in touch with family, for military personnel today than when many of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers served. Technology in the form of cell phones, email, and social media have allowed soldiers to communicate almost daily with loved ones no matter where they are in the world. However, nothing can truly lessen the blow of being so far away from family for so long.

All military personnel have to find a way to cope with missing their loved ones and still perform their duties, sometimes in the midst of danger and other times in safety. They must remain focused on the task and attentive to the needs of their comrades. There are no doubt some who struggle to find joy in the midst of these circumstances, but I know that Jordan and his family are not in that group. So, what is it that allows them to have joy? First of all, I didn’t say that they are always happy. They may struggle through the circumstances and may not always be happy about them. But their JOY comes from something greater than themselves. They trust God for the safety of the other while they are away. They pray for each other continually. Most of all, they know that God is ALWAYS in control no matter what.

A couple of years ago, I asked Jordan to write me an email about the hardships of being involved in a war overseas so that I could share it with a group of men to whom I was ministering who were trying to overcome addictions and poor choices in their lives. In that email, Jordan said, “I find security in knowing that it is not about whether I live or die but whether the life I live is for him (Jesus). A life lived for him is a life of hardships that are not our own”. He went on to say that he hopes that if he is ever seriously wounded or mangled while serving, he will be able to see God’s greater purpose in his life. He concluded his email by telling the guys, “Rejoice in your sufferings because God has a plan bigger than us!”

Jordan and his wife, Sarah, are able to focus on what they can control and trust God for what they cannot. Any happiness they have is mostly wrapped up in things of this world that will fade away eventually. But their joy is in knowing Christ and knowing that he loves them, whatever that might mean for their lives. This is joy that lasts. It’s joy that chooses to focus on what cannot be contained in this world. Jordan also stated in that email that there is no better time to leave this earth than the time that God calls us home to heaven, even if that means a young life is cut short. This is not merely lip service or a Christian cliché. Knowing that everything we think, feel, and see here is temporary, whether it’s good or bad, allows us to find joy and hope in a Creator who is bigger than all of it yet chooses to enter into relationship with us.

If you think about it, that is what we sing in the popular Christmas song “Joy to the World.” There is no true joy apart from Christ. So, when he stepped out of heaven and entered our planet in the form of a baby in a manger, it was heaven on earth. Joy had literally come TO the world in a way that it had not up until that moment. Jesus was going to conquer the sin and death of this world, and everything that got in the way of true joy, when he went to the cross and then rose from the dead. Suffering would continue to happen after that time and until he comes again, but knowing that he was victorious gives us motivation to persevere as we await our joyous victory.

For evidence of this joy, all you have to do is look at Acts 5:40-42 to see how the apostles responded to the one of the first instances of physical persecution in the early church. They had just been thrown in jail for teaching in the name of Jesus, then were freed from the jail by an angel of the Lord so they could keep sharing the gospel message, then were brought back before the authorities again. The authorities had to be convinced by a very smart Pharisee not to kill the apostles, so instead they had them flogged before they released them. Just so you are aware, flogging wasn’t some “slap on the wrist”. It was actually more of a blast to the bare skin, all over one’s body, with a whip that had sharp pieces of bone or metal sticking out of it to inflict maximum damage, over and over and over again. This is what the apostles suffered for teaching in the name of Jesus and being unwilling to disobey God in favor of man’s orders. I’m fairly certain that it didn’t make them very happy. Yet, they had complete joy. “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (v. 41). Their emotion was not based on their temporary, albeit very painful, suffering. It was based on what is not of this world. It was based on the knowledge that Jesus is real and that he, sitting at the right hand of God, considered them worthy of suffering for his sake.

We all face suffering in this world and will continue to do so as long as we live. That will never change. Some suffering will happen as a result of poor choices, while other suffering may happen as a result of following Jesus. Whatever the case may be, you can know that your suffering is not even close to the end. When you experience happy times and circumstances, you can rejoice in knowing that a God who loves you is the One who provided that temporary happiness, while still knowing that it will fade in this world. Whether it’s temporary happiness or temporary suffering, I urge you to focus on what is out of this world. I’ll leave you with the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, because no one could say it better than this: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)