Joy-Bulletin-ImageWe have been in the middle of a worship series discussing mental health and faith with the help on a popular movie, Pixar’s “Inside Out” We have already looked at fear, disgust, anger, and sadness. Today we turn our focus to the last emotion character in the movie “Inside Out,” joy.

Isaiah tells us in his 55th chapter; “You shall go our with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the wood shall clap their hands.” In the 13th chapter of Acts we find “The disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit.” And in Philippians we find a very familiar verse; “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!”

Joy is a good feeling to have. Joy is something that we all strive for. We want to be happy. We want to be fulfilled. We want to have a life that is full of memorable moments. Why else would there be a huge section of every bookstore devoted to increasing our success, our relationships, our health, which when you add them all together, you get increased joy, right?

It’s the American Dream. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men (and Women) are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Happiness, it’s right in our Declaration of Independence. We desire to be happy, to be filled with joy.

However, as we think about joy in our lives, we do need to acknowledge that there is a dark side of joy. Sometimes this comes through the manic side of the bipolar disorder. These are sometimes short lived, but dangerous just the same. But we also need to see that we don’t have to be diagnosed with this disorder in order to feel some of the same affects. Usually accompanying these manic episodes, we find problems with overspending and shopping, drug & alcohol abuse, and even risky behaviors with sexuality and personal safety. But we can see this even within our lives. I remember many times being on vacation or away for a long weekend. Everything was good, relaxing, and the family was happy. During these times, it’s so easy to just spend money, whether it’s shopping, eating, or just enjoying entertainment. Isn’t this is what Disneyworld is built on? Happiness begets spending. So, I think there needs to be a balance.

Another problem we run into is that too often we try to put on a mask of happiness. We try to fool everyone around us that we are happy, when inside, we are falling apart. On the outside, we can put on our happy masks, and make believe that everything is ok, but where does that get us? It certainly doesn’t get us to true happiness. We need to have the balance of emotions in our lives and at the same time be willing to be who we truly are. We need to be open and honest about our feelings. Be broken, it’s ok. Admitting it is the first step in true healing and the feeling of true happiness. So, how do we get to true happiness, and what does that look like?

I think there is a fundamental problem within our Declaration of Independence. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Here we find words about pursuing happiness, like it’s something that is constantly moving away from us. We want to be happy, but it’s just over the next hill, around the next curve. When do we finally achieve happiness?

Jesus tells us is the sermon on the mount; “Happy are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst. Happy are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” I hear that these are happy, not that they are trying to be happy. And they are happy because of the reward. They are happy because they will receive the Kingdom of God, they will be comforted, they will be satisfied, they will receive mercy, they will see God. That is happiness, that is joy!

So, how did they get to the point that Jesus is describing? 1 simple truth. They didn’t seek happiness, they sought God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who was imprisoned in Germany, wrote in his book “Life Together;” Seek God, not happiness – that is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness – that is the promise of all meditation.” Seek God, happiness will follow.

Are you looking for true joy in your life? Are you tired of climbing that next hill, only to find another mountain to climb? Does happiness and joy continue to elude you?

Why not try this? Try seeking God in all you do. Look for God’s ways and as you turn and focus on your relationship with him, the joy that you desire will fill your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, let me finish today with one simple question…

How are you seeking God today?