Can you have joy without a little happiness? Or dare I say, a lot of happiness? Could you dare to pursue happiness while continuing to love holiness?
This question of joy without happiness may seem odd. I know several who love God and live with a pursuit of happiness in their day to day. They seem to be more wired this way. For others, like me, we sometimes separate the two as if one is holier than the other. As if joy could be found without happiness, just because it should be.
At least, it’s how I thought I should live without really knowing I believed such a thing. I didn’t know I could come to know joy more by knowing happiness better.
Over the years a number of messages told my heart I ought to have joy in Jesus, and that it was the pursuit I should long for over happiness. But, I didn’t really know how. I tried to fathom what it could look like, but every attempt was sourced from a sense of responsibility.
I could put on a mask made up of all the things I thought joy was made of. I could pretend with the best of them and sometimes I even got a taste of real joy for a season here and a season there. Yet, over all, my soul continually felt the dissonance and my heart carried a burden so heavy I couldn’t bear it anymore.
Somehow, it felt as if every day was granted so I could live my Christian duty. In a sense, there’s truth in that. We are created for an overarching purpose which points to God and gives him glory.
Oh, how truths get distorted though. Sometimes it’s because a piece is missing and it’s as if the enemy has held it behind his back saying, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, you can’t get this.” But, remember dear heart, he lies.
What I’ve found is an incredibly good God who never taunts or teases. He simply offers more and more of who He is and calls us to explore and grow more in love with it all.
God says to a split heart and uneasy mind ~ there is more. Draw near to me and find my hands open as I freely give it to you.
Step by step we take our days with or without him. He’s always there, but we must choose to notice His presence and power in our lives.
A couple of years ago as I continued a very intentional journey towards healing, I found myself in a counselor’s office in my first EMDR session. EMDR is a natural way of reprocessing traumatic memories physically held in our minds. It makes room for a kind of releasing and retraining which makes way for a calmer mind and body.
My experiences with EMDR have been tremendous for the way Jesus showed up and how the Holy Spirit ministered to my heart all at the same time.
In my first session, I was asked to envision a place which evoked a sense of safety. For me, this was a quiet place of solitude next to a waterfall. Green grass and rocks were near, but not much else. I felt fear for anyone to join me in this place, but then Jesus came and gave me permission to just sit near.
At one point, he got up and smiled. He even began to laugh. He called me to play with Him. I thought he was crazy. Still, I took steps forward while holding his hand.
We stood under the waterfall together in the crevice of wet rocks. His hand parted the waters, which he’s prone to do. Yes?
Then it came. I saw. I saw a glimpse of beauty beyond imagine and my heart nearly exploded as it overwhelmed me.
He spoke. “I’ve created all this for you to enjoy.” Then he pulled the water back and gave me time to step back into the safety I knew while gradually displaying more created beauty around me.
Jesus gave me permission to stay for the time being, with a call to explore more. A call to know happiness better so I could really know joy more.
Later, the word “enjoy” was meant to be a word of safety. When the counselor brought it up again, I full on panicked and anxiety set in. We had to set the word aside for now.
I could never forget. How a word which meant something so good, a word which I believe Jesus gave me to hold onto, incited fear and sadness.
Then, I knew. Something was desperately wrong in my heart and I’d lived my whole life without knowing it. Jesus was bringing it out in the open and giving me a sense of great love and comfort so I could come to know it more.
He wanted me to know happiness better so I could live more fully.
I had no idea then that Jennifer Dukes Lee would write on happiness and how it is found with holiness. Or how God was ripping away the distortions so I could see more clearly. So I could learn to see the beauty ahead of me which he so patiently waits to give.
Day by day I’m choosing to take steps which lead me towards greater knowing of a God who delights to give us more of Him. As I do, I now see a God who smiles. A God who is more than what I’ve known. He’s not only righteous and holy. He’s not only to be feared and revered. He’s happy too.
God delights to give us happiness because it helps us explore more of his holiness.
By grasping more happiness, real joy grows vast without any masks.
Do you want this too? Do you long to experience happiness better in a way which helps you know joy deeper?
The Happiness Dare Book Club is launching soon!
I’d love to see you join Jennifer at (in)courage with an upcoming book club. Here, you’ll find community through devotionals when you comment and share your thoughts and experiences. Through the book and devotionals, I believe hearts will be expanded to not only explore happiness better, but a good God who delights to give it.
Oh, and there are prizes! C’mon over!
Continue the journey to cultivate a life well-lived.
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