Tag Archives: Joy

7 Happy Verses

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

Yeah, it’s pretty much impossible to narrow down hundreds of happy Bible verses into a list of seven. So, to make it easier, I’m pulling a handful from the Book of Psalms, which is where I often go when I need an extra dose of delight. Let the impossible begin!

1.  “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).  This is a good reminder: we’re not missing out on ANY joy when we walk with God. The Christian’s joy is FULL and it extends into eternity!

2.  “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve preached this to myself when I’m sad, especially at night. I realize this is poetry, but the hope of joy in the LITERAL morning really comforts me — not to mention the promise of new mercies (Lamentations 3:23).

3.  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  It’s true, God actually commands us to be happy. Don’t mind if I do! I like how Randy Alcorn puts it: “When God invites you to a party, say yes.”

4.  “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12).  Although this is a psalm of repentance written after David’s affair with Bathsheba, there’s an important truth here: we’re designed for joy, but sin separates us from it. The sins we think will make us happy actually destroy our happiness, and we need God to restore it. I’ve prayed this so many times. I’m thankful God listens.

5.  “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.”  The never-ending Psalm 119 (this is verse 111) is all about God’s law, which is meant for our joy, and not to be a burden (1 John 5:3). Keep this verse handy when you start believing the lie that God doesn’t want us to be happy.

6.  Psalm 139.  The whole thinggggg! David doesn’t use literal happy words here, but this song can’t be sung without unbridled joy! God KNOWS us, UPHOLDS us, CREATES us, DEFENDS us, CONVICTS us, and LOVES us. I think this psalm has given me more joy than any other.

7.  “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation” (Psalm 149:4).  Wait… God takes pleasure in ME? I’m glad this verse is in the Bible — and others like it, such as Zephaniah 3:17 — because I need a reminder in my goal to delight in God that he also delights in me. An allegorical reading of The Song of Solomon conveys this mutual love between God and his people beautifully… but I’ll save that for another blog.

Of course, the psalms also touch on unhappy emotions — and sometimes I need those verses too — but what I find interesting is that they almost always circle back to joy. The collection of 150 songs ends with a series of happy doxologies culminating in praise to God, much like the Bible itself. And our lives, too, if we’re doing it right.

Life As A Doorkeeper

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

We’ve all felt it. When we stare up at the stars or survey the outstretched sea. When we study those grand historical narratives or read some great theologian’s biography. I’m talking about feeling small.

Sure, we could all use a hearty slice of humble pie. We all need that Isaiah moment when we recognize how unclean and undone we are before a holy God. But those feelings should be balanced with (or shortly followed by) the beauty, mercy, and grace of God. They should be felt in the wider context of the Christian worldview — humility without despair. That is, humility with happiness.

Years ago, a friend, a housewife, taught me how to do this (unknowingly, as is often the case). That day we sat on the sofa in her living room and swapped summer reading lists. She flipped to the first chapter of Melville’s Moby-Dick and shared a passage that stood out to her. In it, the narrator, Ishmael, discusses his intent to go whaling:

And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.

WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.

BLOODY BATTLE IN AFGHANISTAN.

Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces…

“Sometimes I feel like Ishmael,” she said. “Just a passing note — wife and mother of three.”

She said this with a smile, some otherworldly contentment, as she closed the book. Of course, being a wife and mom is a beautiful role, and something my friend does very well. But she understood that life has bigger headlines than hers, and somehow she’d made peace with her “shabby part.” If you asked her, she’d probably say something like this: Our life on earth is a foreword, a preface to a much longer, far greater story. A story that’s not our own. We play our part, however big or small, with God’s glory always our goal.

Paul put it this way: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whether you’re called to be a whaler or a wife and mother of three, “do all to the glory of God.” Doing so offers the kind of humility that’s accompanied by great joy in knowing that God would give us even the smallest role in the saga of salvation.

The psalmist said it like this: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Just a doorkeeper — that’s all he asked, if it meant being part of God’s kingdom. And if that’s my part, if that’s my tiny role, I pray that God will give me the grace to be the best doorkeeper I can be.

7 Happy Quotes

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

Ain’t nothing wrong with some filler content while I’m traveling the UK with friends and family this month! Especially when it’s so TWEETABLE. Plus, who doesn’t love a good quote on happiness? Feast your eyes on some of these gems.

1.  “God made human beings as He made His other creatures, to be happy… They are in their right element when they are happy.” (Charles Spurgeon)

2.  “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can” (Jonathan Edwards)

3.  “Christ [is] the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them” (John Flavel)

4.  “The Christian owes it to the world to be supernaturally joyful” (A.W. Tozer)

5.  “Above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord.” (George Muller)

6.  “If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.” (John Piper)

7.  “[God] has no design upon us, but to make us happy” (Thomas Watson)

I’m always posting stuff like this on Twitter, if you want to follow me. And if you haven’t found my Facebook page yet, that’s where I share articles on singleness, sexuality, and happiness — and, of course, the occasional happy quote.

See you when I come back stateside!

7 (More) Happy Songs

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

1.  “In Tenderness” by Citizens. They took an old clunky hymn in 6/8 and made it one of my favorite songs on the planet. The words alone are enough to send my spirit soaring, but combined with those four simple chords? DYING.

2.  “Clair de Lune.” Just listen to it. No, FEEL IT. Movie directors don’t even hire composers for their most poignant scenes; they use this song (think Atonement and Oceans Eleven). Debussy’s masterpiece is the soundtrack to our lives. Now, if only I could play it.

3.  “We Shall Always Be With the Lord” by Ellie Holcomb. Buy the whole album. In fact, buy her whole catalogue! Simple, gorgeous, uplifting, and so many songs pulled straight from Scripture. But this song gets me every time. Tears streaming. Heart bursting. True happiness right here.

4.  “Oh! Great is Our God!” by The Sing Team. You can hear the joy in their voices. It’s like family worship. And the title says it all.

5.  “Sunshine” by Joy Williams. After her stint on Christian radio, but before she was half of The Civil Wars, she was an indie solo artist with two delightful EPs. This song, along with a runner-up called “You’re My Favorite,” feels like a blend of 60s pop and a children’s TV theme song.

6.  “Hello” by KB. No, not Adele’s unhappy tune. This one’s a rap-sung collaboration that makes me want to do two things: 1) SANG and 2) PREACH. A “morning after” song that reminds us that God’s mercies are new every day.

7.  “U Will Know” by BMU. Mmmmm, this song is YUMMY. A little-known gem from the 90s, recorded by the most soulful voices of that era. With their powers combined, they are “Black Men United.” I get one taste of that guitar intro and I’m instantly hooked — and instantly happy!

Need seven more? I got you.

Happiness And Joy: What’s The Difference?

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

Christians have given happiness a bum rap. You’ve probably heard something like this from the pulpit: “Happiness is a temporary emotion based on circumstances, but joy is an ongoing contentment based on our relationship with God.”

Sounds nice, but is it true?

As someone with a master’s degree in English, I appreciate nuance, and I’d usually agree with making such thoughtful distinctions. I once heard a poet say “a stone is not a rock.” A stone is something the river glides over and makes smooth — something you hold in your hand, or skip across the water. But a rock is something that stands tall against crashing waves; it’s what you build on and break things against. I’ve always stood by these distinctions: a stone is a stone, and a rock is a rock.

But pitting happiness against joy? I’m not feeling it.

Only in church settings do we perpetuate the myth that happiness and joy are different. In his excellent book Happiness, which I review here, Randy Alcorn writes, “an ungrounded, dangerous separation of joy from happiness has infiltrated the Christian community.” Until very recently, he says, happiness had a place right alongside joy in the Christian faith. From Church Fathers to Puritans, Christian writers have used “happiness” and “joy” in the same way the dictionary does, and in the same way we do in everyday conversation: synonymously. Even the Bible itself makes no distinction. In a chapter devoted to this very topic, Alcorn gives a couple dozen examples of where Scripture uses forms of “happiness” and “joy” side by side — pairings that occur more than 100 times in various translations!

Even so, church folks continue to say happiness and joy are different emotions and experiences. I think there are two reasons for this “great divorce.”

1.  They want to make a clear distinction between worldly pleasures and godly pleasures. So they attach “happiness” to worldly pleasures, which are shallow and fleeting, and “joy” to godly pleasures. As a result, well-meaning Christians say things like, “We’re not supposed to be happy; we’re supposed to have joy!” Although the intentions behind it are good, this false dichotomy has consequences for both believers and unbelievers.

For believers, we begin to fear happiness. Instead, we search for joy — something we’ve been told isn’t an emotion and therefore (not surprisingly) doesn’t FEEL joyful. We start to believe God doesn’t want us to be happy, which simply isn’t the case. The Bible is filled with commands to be happy. Dare we tell Christians NOT to pursue the very thing God desires of us?

For unbelievers, the separation of happiness and joy can be a roadblock to believing the gospel. Imagine telling someone, “Jesus can’t give you happiness, but he can give you joy.” That makes no sense to me, much less to an unbeliever. (I imagine it makes no sense to God either!) Happiness is the ONE THING every person is searching for, and Jesus is the ONE PERSON who can offer it. Why on earth would it not be part of our message?

2.  They know God calls us to rejoice in suffering — to “consider it all joy” when we face various trials — and they try to describe this tension using terms that the Church has deemed appropriate. So, for example, when a loved one dies someone might say, “I’m grieving, but I still have joy in Christ.” That’s because they’ve been told joy isn’t an emotion, it’s something more like peace or hope. But we could just as easily say, “I’m grieving, but I still have happiness in Christ.” Does that change the meaning? For me, the paradox of Christians being called to rejoice in suffering isn’t a good enough reason to redefine happiness and joy — as though they’re not what the Bible says they are, and what we, deep down, know they are: one and the same.

If Christians continue to believe there’s a difference between happiness and joy, we’ll lose out on both. We need to reclaim happiness — not just the word, but also the experience — as a vital part of the Christian faith.

Tell Me Jesus Is Worth It

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

About a year ago, a friend took me out for coffee and asked what he could do to help me when I’m struggling with faith, sexuality, or singleness. It was one of those moments you hope for — a friend who not only prays for you but also asks, “What more can I do?”

I fumbled over a few words (between gulps of white mocha) but couldn’t quite articulate what it is I really need during times of struggle. I’m not sure anyone had ever asked so directly, so genuinely. Whatever the reason, I was a bumbling mess in that moment, so I reached out to him a couple days later with a follow-up text:

“You asked how you can be a better support to me. Of course you already are, but I’ve been thinking about it more. Because I didn’t answer very well the first time. I think the best thing people can do is to remind me that Jesus is worth it. Tell me out loud, ‘Jesus is worth it.’ Because we so often forget — at least, I do. But the catch is, people have to really believe that themselves for it to be any real encouragement to me. Does that make sense? We don’t persevere in the faith because we like Christian values, or because we want to please our family, or even because we want to go to heaven. But because, in the end, we get to know and love and BE WITH Jesus! If he’s not worth it (or, more accurately, if we don’t remember that he’s worth it), then we have every reason to give up. So… That’s one way. Hugs and coffee dates and [your wife’s] amazing lasagna are a few of the other ways.”

My friend took his question — and my answer — seriously. I know because, since then, he often texts me with that precious reminder: Jesus is worth it. The phrase has even inspired its own hashtag. He’s always quick to respond with encouragement when I tell him, “It’s a #JIWI kind of night.”

As a single person committed to celibacy, but living in a world where sex reigns supreme, there are days when my mission to be happy in Christ comes to a screeching halt. I have fears about the future. Setbacks when I’m striving for holiness. Doubts about how long I can put up a good fight when the odds feel stacked against me.

During those times, I need someone to sit beside me — maybe even hold my hand — and tell me the old redemption story. Tell me about the God who became a man, walked among us, and built his kingdom. Tell me the truth about his death and resurrection, which I reenacted through baptism when I was a boy. Tell me he loves me, forgives me, walks with me, and is working all things for my good. Tell me you’re my brother or sister and you’re persevering with me, because that’s what saints do. Tell me Jesus is coming back and he’s making all things new — even now, as we sit here hand in hand.

On those nights when I lose focus and can’t seem to find joy in Christ, tell me what I already know: tell me Jesus is worth it.

Review: Happiness

Posted by: 
Book Reviews

When I decided to launch this website, I knew Randy Alcorn’s new book Happiness would be a must-read (and must-review). I don’t know if Randy knows this, but he and I are kindred spirits. First there was his book, Heaven, one of the happiest books I’ve ever read, and parts of which I’m sure were taken telepathically from my own brain. (Kindred spirits, you know.) Now there’s Happiness, which is a fitting “sequel.” Also, thanks to Randy, I’ve got tweets lined up for weeks. (No, seriously. Pretty much 90 percent of my tweets for the next few months will come from this book.) Here are my main takeaways from each of the four sections:

Our Compelling Quest for Happiness

If happiness is the one thing ALL people desire, and the one thing only God can ultimately provide, why aren’t churches talking more about it? In part one, Alcorn gives evidence from throughout Church history that happiness is something that saints have always, until very recently, pursued and preached. But he’s also careful to define his terms so that readers understand that the only kind of happiness we should pursue is that which results in glorifying God. That is, we won’t find true happiness in sinful pleasures (or GOOD pleasures that we’ve turned into idols, such as relationships), but we can — and should — seek happiness in God and the gifts of his creation.

The Happiness of God

This section tackles one of the most neglected attributes of God: his happiness. It didn’t take long for Alcorn to convince me that the Triune God is happy in himself and his creation — and that believing this is vital to understanding our own happiness. Many churchgoers imagine God’s default demeanor is one of anger and disappointment, which affects our worship. Alcorn asks us to imagine how our lives would look (and how the world would see us) if we knew that the God we serve is happy. Then we’re given evidence from Scripture that God is, indeed, happy — and he delights to make us part of his story.

The Bible’s Actual Words for Happiness

In what Alcorn calls the most important section, he takes us through passages of Scripture that use the Hebrew and Greek words for happiness, letting the Bible build its own case. One main point here is that these words should often be translated “happy,” but translators and publishers are fixated on the more traditional word “blessed.” We’re comfortable with the SOUND of Psalm 1 (“Blessed is the man”) and Matthew 5 (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”), but we can easily miss the MEANING of the word “blessed” in these contexts: HAPPY! Alcorn takes us through dozens (out of hundreds) of verses where the original languages denote happiness, making it clear that it’s one of the Bible’s most prominent themes.

Understanding and Experiencing Happiness in God

This section could be called “How To Be Happy.” It includes Scripture reading, prayer, corporate worship, repentance, forgiveness, service to others, gratitude, and a focus on our future hope. Now, these are strategies we already know. But with what we’ve learned in parts 1-3, we start to see these not just as things we ought to do, but things we should delight to do. When our DUTY becomes our DELIGHT, Christianity starts to look and feel the way it should: a religion of joy.

This book is a commitment, weighing in at more than 400 pages. But it takes about that long to debunk the myths surrounding happiness. In both the church and the culture at large, happiness needs to be redeemed — it’s demonized by churches, hijacked by prosperity preachers, and misunderstood by unbelievers. With the Bible and Church history on his side, Alcorn puts happiness back in its rightful place and gives us permission to pursue it as an integral part of our walk with God — a God who himself delights with us.