Originally published Thursday, 27 May 2021.
Recently my eight-year-old daughter asked me if people can be happy without Jesus. I answered her in the moment, but I’ve been thinking about and attempting to refine my answer ever since. Yes, I believe the world is brimming with good things that can bring happiness to all people. Loving relationships, delectable food, satisfying careers, stunning sunsets…these are common graces from our loving creator and can bring both pleasure and happiness. However, happiness is dependent on external circumstances and can be unstable and fleeting. In a moment, life can change. A terminal diagnosis, a friend’s harmful behavior, a natural disaster…what then? What of our happiness? Where do our emotions flee? What will serve as a firm foundation so that we are not subject to the buffets of the world and enslaved to circumstance?
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 (ESV)
Our deepest, truest longing is not to be filled with the happiness and pleasures offered by the world. Rather it is to be in relationship with our creator. We were created to know Him, to trust Him, and to walk through life beside Him. These things are possible because of His son Jesus Christ who reconciled us to God through His death on the cross.
… you believe in him and are filled
with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
for you are receiving the end result of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9
This fullness of joy found in His presence and the inexpressible and glorious joy filling us because of the salvation of our souls is the only firm foundation. Joy is marked by a deep abiding sense of contentment and satisfaction because of who is Lord of our lives, not what is happening in our lives.
Joy is a gift from God and cannot be manufactured in our own strength. It is possible only through the Holy Spirit producing fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Joy is impervious to circumstance. It is what enabled Paul to minister contentedly in prison for many years. It is what James exhorts us to remember when we face trials of many kinds. It is what was set before Jesus as he endured the cross, scorning its shame. And it is what I have daily fought to abide in during this difficult year when so many of the temporal moorings and pleasures, that I have perhaps loved a little too dearly, have been stripped away.
This past year I have been forced to deeply examine the affections of my heart, what I put my hope in, where my true joy lies. It is not found in freedoms I had previously taken for granted. It is not found in political candidates that embody my beliefs. It is not found in exploring God’s magnificent world through travel. And it is certainly not found in a predictable, stable world that allows me to plan, execute, and be in control. I have found great freedom in the assurance that my joy stands on its own, unshakeable and eternal, not subject to the whims of this world. For my joy is found in the person of Jesus Christ, and what is more, it cannot ever be taken from me.
Indeed, I count everything as loss
because of the surpassing worth of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things
and count them as rubbish,
in order that I may gain ChristPhilippians 3:8
Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm-life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics bookclub, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.