Why I've stopped searching for happiness

Is there a difference between joy and happiness? They seemed so similar to me for so long. Do different things in life make us happy and different things in life make us joyful? Can joy be found in pain? In suffering? In ailments? Can it be found in times where life is happening and things become unbearable. Realistically, is there even such a thing as joy in pain? Joy in suffering? Joy in ailments?  

Just for a second, imagine being born knowing exactly when and how you will die. How would you live your years? Would it hinder your mission here on earth? Jesus knew. He knew what kind of death he would soon face, but it didn’t hinder his mission here; the time (30 plus years) on earth his Father gave him to accomplish what he needed to in order to fulfill his mission. When we look at the most evil of evils- The Cross: A death we can’t even fathom; we know it to be a death so brutal, we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around the pain and suffering Jesus endured that day on the Cross to crucifixion. Crucifixion was the harshest, most brutal punishment anyone could receive in those times. Talk about a heavy load; Jesus carried his cross for miles upon miles, up hills, while beaten, mocked, scorned, and flogged; even falling several times for the cross to crush him, but he bore the weight. He knew his suffering would turn to joy, so he endured. Even in knowing this, there still was the physical, emotional, and mental agony he was enduring at that present moment from being beaten with a sharp whip, the exhaustion from carrying the weight of the cross, the misery of the lacerations that saturated his body; I can’t even begin to imagen this suffering. Talk about a “heavy load”, but He endured; joyfully. How? Why? He trusted that His Father knew what He was doing and he continually remembered the promises God had made. The promises He has made available to us to this day, too. Enduring didn’t mean the pain would go away, it meant the pain, suffering, and hurt of the circumstance would eventually be made right. And still, despite knowing all of this, Jesus lived joyfully. Did he have his moments of weakness, as every human being does? Absolutely! He was fully human and fully God; resting in the confidence of his Father. In the garden of Gethsemane, while sweat fell in the form of blood, he prayed, “Father, if it be possible; let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). He wanted the pain to go away, but most of all he wanted His Father's will to be done, even to death.  

So how do we find joy in pain? In suffering? In ailments? We trust God. Easier said; harder to do. It’s a daily struggle, for me at least. And then I remember the cross and how joy was found in it. The Father’s will for his Son meant joy of us. And because of God’s will for His son; in the end, the cross didn’t mean death; it meant life. In the end the cross didn’t mean sorrow, it meant joy. Why? Because it didn’t stop at the cross. It only began. Jesus beat death that day, so we no longer need to be afraid. Jesus beat pain that day, although we may physically endure it as he did on this earth, God will make it all right again, soon. Jesus beat evil. Although we endure it now, Jesus is ultimately victorious over it all in the end. Why do we trust God’s will for our pain and suffering, because His Word tells us He’s is victorious over it all. He will, one day, make it all right again; He will make it beautiful. He promises. Jesus did all of this for us. God sums these points up beautifully in Hebrews 12: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (vs.1-2)

Let us run with endurance the race set before us: As Jesus demonstrated perseverance through enduring the cross, we too are able to run our race of faith with endurance.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith: When i'm running, it often helps when I "fix" my eye on one general area. It helps me stay concentrated and focus on the task at hand. In doing this, the throbbing cramp in my left side is overlooked because I have my concentration set on something else. I am not focusing in on the pain, but on the target. This is what Jesus is inviting us to do in this line- to set our eye on Him and in that concentration, the weight of our pain is overlooked because when we see Jesus, we see hope rather than the pain before us.

Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross: He endured because he knew the outcome would be joy.

Despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God: The truth that gives us hope- HE is indeed victorious.

I was recently told about a group of people who were “joyful” to give their arm or their leg to be taken off when they faced their enemy. How in the world would or could anyone be “joyful” about a limb being brutally taken off? Both arms and both legs makes life so much 'easier'. Their joy was made evident when they replied to their afflicters for them to go ahead and take their arm or their leg. It would only be temporary. In time, they will rise in glory and everything they lost, they would gain back, in Heaven. Talk about finding joy in our circumstances... eternal over temporal perspective. They joyfully sacrificed their hand, arm or leg, trusting in the Lord’s will for their life, and having hope that one day they would gain it all bad, gloriously. Earthly life without a limb is temporary, but eternal life in glorified bodies (limbs and all) praising Jesus is forever. 

And that’s why i’ve stopped searching for happiness because I realized I have been searching for the wrong thing all along. Happiness is temporary; only lasting a short period of time. When trials hit, happiness ceases. That’s why now I search for joy. When trials hit, joy can still be found. Joy in Jesus is the only sustainer through tribulation. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). May our joy in suffering be made complete in the only One who can provide it. Jesus gives joy. Jesus is our joy. So again, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 2:1-2) He endured, knowing by his pain,  joy was the ending result. God was bringing his children back into a loving relationship with him again. That, my friends, is why there is joy to be found in the testimony of the cross and in our suffering. 

There’s no happiness in the midst of your husband’s traumatic brain injury, but the joy of the Lord was so tangibly found. There’s no happiness in the midst of 3 grueling surgeries your precious child has to endure all before age of 1. The only joy that we could find was/is Jesus. 

There’s no such thing as happiness a mist tragedy. When I began searching for joy, I found Jesus there. And because Jesus was there, there was strength. God woke me up this morning. More often than not something I take this for granted. No matter what the pain, suffering, or affliction that will arise during that day; there is joy because there is Jesus. Jesus is there, in the midst of the circumstances even when it’s not noticeable. 

And then the Lord rests His hand on your shoulder and says, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Sadness may inhabit our hearts through the night, but joy is there awaiting us come morning (Ps. 30:5) He woke me up this morning; He asked me to let Him be my joy as I go about my day. What if I actually let Him?