Dr. Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, remembers turning one day to Kathy, his wife and the mother of their then three young sons. In a rather sober tone, he remarked that with children, a parent can never be happier than their unhappiest child.
In essence, when you love someone so dearly, your emotions and happiness are directly tied to their circumstances – for good or bad.
I’ve thought about that reality in terms of the state of our country and culture. Given all of the horrific and bad news, is it still possible to live a life of joy in the midst of crisis and confusion?
It is – and Christians have a distinct advantage doing so.
Here are five ways to living a more joyful life:
1. Read Your Bible More than Your Favorite News Site
I know people who say they read their Bible each morning to know what God is up to and The New York Times to find out what the enemy is doing. It’s said tongue-in-cheek but has an element of truth.
It’s important to know what’s going on, but it’s more important to know how to respond to what is happening to you. The Bible provides wisdom every news site combined never will.
“Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face,” former President Ronald Reagan once said. He was right. Despite being written thousands of years ago, it remains timeless and practical.
2. Pursue Joy – Don’t Chase Happiness
Consider the apostle Paul’s “prison epistles” – letters written from jail to Christian believers in Ephesus and Philippi, along with his letters of encouragement to Philemon and followers of Jesus known as the Colossians.
Paul, who was in chains, wrote to the Philippians:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have 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 all this through him who gives me strength (4:11-13).
Writing to the Romans, Paul urged them to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (12:12).
It’s normal to want to be happy, but history and experience tell us that we find true happiness along the way to helping and serving other people.
3. Be Careful of What You Watch and Read
The late pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “What goes down in the well comes up in the bucket. Garbage in, garbage out.” We won’t knowingly put trash in our mouths – so why do we so readily put it in our minds?
Pleasant thoughts come to those who read, watch and talk about pleasant subjects.
We may think culture has only recently collapsed – but consider that the apostle Paul warned about what we consumer thousands of years ago:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:8-9).
4. Forgive Those Who Have Hurt You
Og Mandino, a popular author of old, once wrote, “Kindling a fire for your enemy is like burning down your own home to get rid of a rat.”
Scripture points to the power of forgiveness in both the Old and New Testaments. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone,” wrote Paul to the Colossians. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (3:13).
5. Count Your Blessings
If you’re reading this, you can be grateful for your eyesight – and your ability to read. What about the phone you’re holding or the computer you use to communicate? That used to be pure fantasy only a generation ago. Do you have a home, a job – a satiated stomach? Do you love someone? Do they love you?
Practicing an “attitude of gratitude” each day will put you in an excellent frame of mind. Let the gripes and grousing go – celebrate what you have – not what you’re missing.
The Lord has blessed us with an incredible capacity to balance the burdens of this world and blessings we enjoy without becoming overwhelmed by either category. In the end, the best of all news is that Christian believers can remain joyful despite all the bad news as we look forward with great anticipation to the life to come.
Photo from Shutterstock.