Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 ESV
What is the key to sustainable happiness? What can give us joy amidst the turbulent waves of reality? According to HuffPost Life there are more than 23 000 books written on the topic of happiness. Needless to say, it’s a deep desire of every human and, whenever and however we can, we will chase after it. Will we find it in relationships, careers, expensive homes and cars, the ultimate overseas trip or maybe in being creative? However lovely and indulgent these earthly things may sound, the sad reality is that they are all temporary. They might provide some momentary happiness, but never an enduring joy. Not even a loving spouse can provide that.
In an article Larry Kim says that “the real key to happiness is in realizing that attaining any or all of those things we think we really, really want will never actually make us happy.” He’s got a point…but he is not quite there yet.
Let’s see what the apostle Paul wrote about enduring joy. At the time that he was writing to the Philippians he was in chains for the Gospel, which means he was in prison because of sharing the Good News about Jesus. And yet if you read through the book of Philippians it doesn’t seem like he was bitter or angry because of it.
Well, perhaps you’re thinking, Paul probably didn’t suffer that much – that’s why he doesn’t seem so unhappy. In his second letter to the Corinthians he wrote the following, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) So, no – Paul did indeed suffer immensely.
More than this, Paul knew how it felt to have plenty and he knew how it felt to starve, yet he learnt how to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12). What was his secret? Philippians 4:4 gives us the answer. Paul found his joy in nothing but the Lord Himself. For interest sake, see how many times Paul repeated the word “joy” in this letter. Our Lord Jesus is the only constant. He has no beginning and no end. He exists outside of time and is never changing, all-seeing, all-loving, all-powerful and all-righteous.
It might not feel like it at the moment, but even lockdown and the sweep of the Coronavirus will come to an end. Our Lord endures forever. If we rejoice in Jesus and cry out to Him in prayer, we will be less anxious. Are you feeling anxious? Have you prayed today? When we give our fear and worries to God, He fills our hearts and minds with a peace “that surpasses all understanding” (4:7) and that is what enduring joy is all about. It doesn’t mean that we have to smile all the time in the face of darkness, but that when we find ourselves in hard times we still have peace and hope.