Quote of the Week

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever
situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the
greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions,
and not upon our circumstances. — Martha Washington

Joy vs. Happiness

joyJoy has always been an issue that I’ve wrestled with. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

I’ve been a born again Christian for more than 10 years and the one thing I can’t seem to get a handle on is joy. I’ve had many people advise me that one of the hallmarks of being a Christian is being joyful. Galatians 5:22 lists the fruit of the Spirit; joy being secondary in the list next to love.

Thelma Wells The November/December 2008 issue of Today’s Christian Woman (TCW) published a special section that focused specifically on the topic of joy. TCW editor Ginger Kolbaba interviewed Thelma Wells, a popular Christian speaker and author who struggled with cancer. If anyone would know about the highs and lows of joy, it’d be a woman who was placed on life support with the grim prognosis of impending death.

The entire interview is worth reading but Ginger asks Thelma key questions that elicit winning answers—one of them being that people don’t lose joy but rather, it goes “underground.” I’ve highlighted a few of Thelma’s answers that I really identified with.

TCW: What gets in the way of us truly experiencing joy?

THELMA: Trying to be somebody we’re not. God made us wonderfully in his image. But we look at life from the eyes of our culture: where I should live, what I should drive, where my kids should go to school, what I should have in my house. We compete for status, for recognition, for all these things that mean little or nothing in the end. And when we do that, we become confused about who we serve and why we serve.

If we aren’t careful, we can become so depressed and confused and overwhelmed that our joy goes underground. [emphasis mine]

Here I can identify the source of my lack of joy: discontentment. I’m not discontent with my family or my friends or most of my circumstances, however, I am continuously discontent with myself. I am always trying to be—or wishing to be—someone I’m not. I am never satisfied with the person God made me. I try to be a social chameleon but never quite succeed (in my own mind anyway). Discontentment with myself breeds depression in my life.

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Taking on pretentious Christianity: You don't always have to be happy just because you call yourself a Christian

Nancie at More Than Conquerors has a great post up including a devotional that reflects on Jeremiah 17:17: "Do not be a terror to me; You are my hope in the day of doom." It really contradicts the notion that Christians are supposed to be bright, happy, sunshine, and flowers. Christians always seem to act like because they have "joy" in Christ, they are supposed to be happy-go-lucky and everything just works out for them.

How absolutely and utterly wrong.

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm.

Because I’m essentially faceless on this blog, I can be me–like it or not. I’m not your typical born-again Christian. I don’t act pretentious. If crap is going wrong in my life, I say it is and I won’t act like things are butterflies and sunshine. I cuss (sorry to those it offends!) at times when I’m angry or frustrated. This is me; I am a human with faith in Christ.

So I’m out to blast this notion of Christians always have the "joy of the Lord," meaning "I am so happy because Jesus saved me from my sins that I have to go around and smile all day." NO. "Joy of the Lord," I think, means quiet confidence in him. Knowing who he is and what he’s done for you and through all the trials of life, never letting go of that faith because you’re secure in his love for you.

No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children.

We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ.

The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

Boy, do I feel like winds and tempests are exercising my faith. And I’m not going to act like they’re not. Jesus showed the weak side of his humanity. I’m not sure why some Christians think they need to be "stronger" than Jesus.

/end ex-fundamentalist rant/

Current Mood Rating: 5.5

The Holidays

How were your holidays?

Mine were tumultuous.

Let me explain: I had a week of mania and depression on and off. I’m more accustomed to calling it a “mixed state.” I’d be sad and suicidal one minute and then happy and elated the next. (Correlation with PMS currently unidentified. I’ll tell you my verdict in about three months.)

Example: I went to the mall with my husband and mother on New Year’s Day. I went to New York & Co., one of my favorite clothing stores, and grabbed a bunch of different clothes off the racks, knowing I didn’t have enough money to pay for anything that even fit. I didn’t have enough money for a $20 shirt. My husband said I was in every corner of the stores – which I don’t normally do – looking at nearly every single item (again, I don’t do this). I tried on all the clothes I’d picked up, promising my husband that I wouldn’t get them all and still walked to the register with about $75 worth of clothing. No, not a lot but neither he nor I had the money for them. I whipped out my debit card in an effort to deceive my husband and look like I could afford it. When the $75 total popped up, however, I quickly switched to my debt-laded Discover credit card. Alas, my mother came to the rescue and paid for the items as a Christmas gift. My husband had previously been asking me what I’d pay with and I kept insisting “a card” while not specifying which kind.

I was pretty happy, cheerful, joyful – I’d go so far as to say euphoric (I rarely use that term in relation to myself). I raced around the store, excessively happy, and chatted up a storm. My husband warned my mother that an imminent crash lurked around the bend.

He just didn’t know how soon.

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