BY REV. CLINT LOVEALL
SPIRIT LAKE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
"Though pilgrimages are good for the spirit, if you can't find Jesus in your hometown, you probably aren't going to find him in Jerusalem." -- Richard Rohr
From the time you started walking, thousands of people have been working very hard to convince you that what you have isn't quite good enough and you need something more to be happy.
They do it on radio, television, in magazines, online and anywhere else they think they might get your attention. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but the by-product seems to be that the more we buy into this logic, the less content we are and the harder it is to find joy.
Focusing on what we don't have inevitably leads us to be dissatisfied with what we have. It's true of material stuff, like boats, homes, cars ... and it's true of life stuff like relationships, jobs, churches, etc.
There's a great passage near the end of Philippians in which Paul instructs the church:
"Rejoice in the Lord always, I'll say it again, Rejoice!... Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." (4:4,8)
There is much wisdom here. Joy starts not with what we have, or want, or circumstance, but with God. "Rejoice in the Lord." When we struggle to find happiness, it is almost always because we are searching in the wrong places.
Then Paul encourages the Christ-people in Philippi not only to put their minds on the right things, but to put the right things in their minds. Paul instructs believers to focus on things that are worthy of praise, things that lead to thanksgiving and are good and right. Do you do that? Do you look for the good before you find the bad? Do you celebrate what is right before you criticize what is wrong? Are you more likely to compliment or complain?
How often do we keep ourselves from knowing and sharing the joy of Christ? Probably about as often as we fill our minds with negativity and discontent. To paraphrase the quote above, if you can't find reasons to be thankful now, you probably wouldn't no matter what.
Happiness doesn't live on the other side of everything we wish we could change, it lives in a decision to focus on things worth our time and energy. To do less is to rob ourselves of the joy of following Christ and steal joy from those around us as well. If you know Jesus, then, believe it or not, you don't need another single thing to be happy. You just need to remember that. "I'll say it again, rejoice."