Choosing the Joyful Life
So there was much joy in that city. Acts 8:8
We all want to be happy, experiencing a joyful life. No one says, I want to be miserable. Unfortunately, though, many of us do live in a state of chronic discontentment. I would suggest that for most of us who have been miserable, we ourselves have been largely to blame. Joy is not so much a byproduct of our circumstances (which we often cannot control) as it is a purposeful choice (which we can control). The mistake is to think that it’s simply a switch we can flip in our brain so that we’re magically joyful one day. We may choose our attitude about specific things. Joy though, is a byproduct of a way of life.
In my addiction, I was miserable. I hated my life and I hated what I was doing. No matter how much I wanted joy, I couldn’t find it. I was never going to know true peace and happiness until I got sober. Joy was my choice, but it only came after I turned to God, abandoning that thing which was making me so miserable. The irony was that I pursued drugs in the first place, because I thought at the time, that they made me feel good.
This is often the source of our misery and it isn’t necessarily about drugs. This is about how we pursue pleasure or instant gratification in anything, mistaking that temporary release for lasting joy. We find fleeting satisfaction in food, money, pornography, status, material possessions, or even relationships. Then, after the instant gratification inevitably fades, we’re left empty and desolate, wondering why we’re so unhappy.
In today’s passage, we’re given a glimpse at the source of authentic, lasting joy. In the story, Philip went to Samaria to spread the gospel. The people there listened to Philip and followed Christ, finding radical transformation. In turning to God, they experienced joy. They didn’t set out seeking joy. Rather, it was a fruit that grew out of their right relationship with God.
We don’t simply grow joy out of nothing any more than we can grow an apple out of thin air. If we want to grow an apple, we must grow the tree first. The apple is a byproduct of that tree. Likewise, if we want to know joy, we must choose the life that produces it. Daily, if we want to find life, joy, and peace, we must abandon our way to follow God’s. In following him, we can find true joy, despite life’s circumstances.