I was soaking up the sun at Starbucks today, and a woman ran by. She was exercising hard, but she had a great, big smile upon her face. She smiled at those she passed genuinely, as if she was having the best day possible.
I wondered about that. Was she smiling because she just had one of those new Frappuccinos Starbucks has been advertising? Was she smiling because she loves to run? (Hard to accept that one, but maybe!) Or was she smiling because she truly was happy? How many people at your workplace, school, or in your home do you come across on a daily basis who smile, mean it, and are irrefutably happy?
Not many. Someone remarked to me earlier this week that he isn’t feeling very joyful right now. He said, “Joy? You’ve either lost your job, you’re having a conflict with your wife, or you’re old and feel aches and pains every single day. It’s hard to feel joyful.”
I have always gravitated to Philippians 4:11-13. Paul says, “… I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I love reading Paul’s letters because he is simply so real. I sense from this passage that he’s struggling with that question of happiness, of joy, of contentment. Just as we do.
Jesus doesn’t talk about happiness; he talks about being blessed. Take The Beatitudes, for instance. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted … blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven …” (Matthew 5:4, 10). Being blessed is different than being happy. Happiness for us is enjoying a favorite TV show, enjoying a conversation with a friend, and even enjoying a good run outdoors.
Being blessed – well, that goes much deeper, doesn’t it? Jesus says of each of those conditions in the Beatitudes – such as being “poor in spirit” or being reviled or persecuted – that we are blessed! Jesus meets us in those sorry conditions we find ourselves in. He wants to fill that internal emptiness we feel when we mourn.
No, it’s not too easy for some to feel joyful right now. And it’s not easy because it’s an attitude we have to adopt daily because those things – those aches and pains, those losses – that’s the human condition. But Jesus reminds us to “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven …” (Matthew 5:12).
And that alone gives us the peace – and joy – we need to greet each new day. ~Rachel