November 23, 1999
Writing about life, J. A. Motyer penned, “We live by what we love; the shape of our lives is determined by the joys of our hearts.”
Joy flows from a host of sources: the laughter of a child, a thoughtful gift from someone who cares, sunny days in November, the smell of cinnamon, cuddly stuffed bears, hot apple pie and ice cream, a visit to an old family album, even an unexpected raise from the boss.
Being happy is a universal desire of the heart. However, we seek happiness in different places and ways. Some find joy in the fleeting yet lovely accidental experiences of life. For these people, being happy is generally easy.
Happiness does not come so easily for others. In fact, many people think they can be happy only through intense personal effort, or improved health, or greater recognition by their peers, or by having more money. They might say “money cannot buy happiness” but those who try it justify their efforts with: “No, but money can get me a lot closer to where happiness is.”
Is that true? Isn’t happiness fleeting if our source of happiness is unstable? Let’s face it, even a laughing child cries. Even the most wonderful gifts wear out. Our friends sometimes move away. The sun often hides and storms rage in its place. Even the sweet smell of cinnamon can be overwhelmed by stench from last week’s garbage and we know money has wings.
Is it possible to be happy all the time? A wise man wrote there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” We know that is true, but most of us would rather be laughing. We look for a universal answer to the joy question, or at least something consistent that will make us happy.
The same wise man, Old Testament King Solomon, wrote, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”He later adds, “. . . everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil --- this is the gift of God.” His point is that contentment and happiness depend less on one’s situation or external circumstances and more on God who can give the ability to enjoy life just as it is.
One psalmist says, “The Lord is my strength and my song. . . .” He recognized that he had a song in his heart and he knew that it came from God rather than anything around him.
Back to Motyer’s quote. He says the joys of our hearts shape our lives. If he is right, what better joy to shape the way we live than the joy that comes from God?
Think of the alternatives. If our happiness comes only from the laughter of others, can we force a child to smile or a party to happen every time our joy meter drops? If our only happiness comes from thoughtful gifts, will we wither and die between birthdays and Christmas? If all our joy comes from sunshine and sweet smells, what will we do with darkness and the stench of life? If our joy requires more money, how much is enough? How happy can we be should the stock market slump or should inflation shake our financial stability?
The Bible teaches that if we invite Him, God will come into our hearts and live there. When He does, He brings His joy. Imagine that! God making joy in your heart and that divine joy shaping your life! Our problem is that our hearts are generally full of ourselves. No wonder we become discouraged and look elsewhere for our joy. Who can make themselves consistently happy?
Again, Motyer says we live by what we love. If we love God and invite Him to occupy first place in our hearts, then His presence is with us all the time. He promises to “never leave us or forsake us.” No matter what happens, God is as close as our very breath. The Bible says that “in the presence of the Lord is fullness of joy.” With great delight, those who know His presence can paraphrase Motyer’s words, “We live by the God we love; the shape of our lives is determined by His joy in our hearts.”