Mother Teresa once said that “the best way to show our gratitude to God is to accept everything with joy. Never let anything fill you with sorrow that forget the joy of Christ risen.”
This sentiment seems in direct opposition to our culture’s mantra today. Our world doesn’t believe in choosing joy; instead, it demands that we seek it.
Not happy in your job? Quit (oh, and don’t forget to blast your employer on social media while you’re at it). Not happy in your marriage? Leave your spouse and find another one. Or, better yet, remain single and “free”–that’s where happiness really lies. Not happy with your house, your car, your clothes, or your tech? Go into debt to buy new ones.
Joy is something to be found, so long as we “follow our hearts” and do whatever it is our flesh desires in the moment.
Unfortunately, what our flesh desires changes from day to day, hour to hour, minute by minute. That exciting new relationship we leave our spouse for….will soon become old and stale. That fancy new house we had to have….will soon need updates and repairs. That cool new phone we needed in order to keep up with the Jones…will soon be replaced with a newer model.
If we choose to live a life constantly seeking joy, we will forever and always be dissatisfied.
Instead, we must determine to live a life choosing joy instead. No matter the circumstance, hardship, or situation, true, lasting choice is matter of determination. But, thankfully, it’s not a matter of determination that lies in our own strength.
“I know what it is to be in need,” Paul writes in Philippians 4: 12-13, “and I know what it is to be in plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
People often quote verse 13 as a way to bolster their confidence in doing one thing or another and, while that’s all well and good (Scripture is meant as an encouragement!) we must read the verses preceding it to understand what Paul was truly meaning. What was the “everything” he could do through the strength of Christ? “Being content in any and every situation.”
Being content. Imbued with peace. Choosing joy. In “any and every situation.”
Because of the strength of Jesus Christ.
When we become followers of Jesus, he sends to us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, giving to us the power to “choose joy” in all circumstances…because we know our lives–and everything in them–is temporary. Our true home is waiting for us in heaven. Therefore, we don’t have to rush around, searching for the next earthly thing to fulfill us and, hopefully, finally make us happy. Because our happiness comes from accepting the work of Christ on the cross. From know who we are…and whose we are. From having a perspective about this life that can only come from having an eternal one.
But what does “choosing joy” really look like, especially in a world as broken as ours? Because even if we learn to be content in our jobs, our marriages, our financial situations, we can’t escape the reality of evil, suffering, and hardships all around. How can we choose joy in the midst of war, school shootings, and rampant sin?
Mother Teresa had a thought about that too. And, you must remember, this wasn’t just lip service. Mother Teresa worked in the poorest, most destitute areas of Calcutta during her time on earth; she witnessed unspeakable poverty, death, and degradation daily. And yet she claimed that “being happy in Jesus means loving as he loves, helping as helps, giving as he gives, serving as he serves, rescuing as he rescues, being with him twenty-four hours, touching him in his distressing disguise.”
You see, seeking joy is all about ourselves; choosing joy is all about others. When we take the focus off ourselves and onto serving others the way Jesus serves, those fleeting things our flesh claim will make us “happy” seem to fade in the background. When we discover that, through Christ, we can meet the needs of those around us–in whatever way, big or small–we find a joy that is incomparable to any material possession. Although it sounds counter-intuitive to the “truths” of our present culture, its only when we no longer seek our own happiness that we will finally, truly find it.
Choose joy, friends. Choose Jesus.