Joy, contentment and happiness are three words that get all mixed up in our culture today. In a book I am reading, written by Shelia Wray Gregoire she defines the three words…… “Joy is an emotion that looks upward, contentment is an emotion that looks inward and happiness is an emotion that looks outward. Joy says, ‘How great is our God!’ Contentment says, ‘It is well with my soul.’ And happiness says ‘What a wonderful _______________I have!’ (You fill in the blank…….life, job, husband, wife, friend-something tangible and outside of oneself.) C.S. Lewis writes “Joy is like experiencing a flash of heaven, almost a ‘stab’ where the clouds are rolled back for a split second and your heart expands and you feel God. It’s momentous, and it’s big. Happiness, on the other hand, is small and rooted in circumstances here on earth.” The apostle Paul writes about contentment in the book of Philippians, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:11-13
Joy and contentment are my goals in my life and in my relationships with others. Happiness is dependent on my outward circumstances and is influenced by how I react or respond to the ever changing situations or people around me. If I focus on my happiness and if my purpose is to ensure that my emotional well being is paramount, I will stay true to my feelings but I won’t be true to anyone else. Gods main purpose for me is to be conformed to The image of His Son, Jesus. One of the Old Testament prophets, Micah says, “He has shown you O man, what is good. And what the Lord requires of you. To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
This is the purpose of my life…to do what’s right (focus on justice); to love mercy (focus on grace) and to pursue a relationship with God. And this is how I want to pursue every relationship-casual friendships, deep friendships and especially my marriage.
In the book I am reading, 9 Thoughts that can Change your Marriage, Shelia Wray Gregoire writes in the chapter titled My Husband Was Not Put on This Earth to Make Me Happy………”Your marriage is not about happiness; your marriage is about both of you looking more and more like Jesus every day as you both do what is right. You’ll demonstrate mercy, forgiving each other as Christ forgave you. You’ll shower blessings on each other. But you’ll also stand up for justice, believing that looking like Jesus means that you stand for truth. When you do that, it’s quite likely that you’ll find happiness too.”
This book has been challenging me to spend more time praying for my husband, appreciating the little things he does for me and looking for the ways he goes out of his way to bless my life. I have been focusing on my own thinking and nurturing my own relationship with God by following some of the recommended action steps. The best thing I am learning is that my contentment is a beautiful gift that I can give to my husband.
“Trusting God instead of another to meet your needs might be the most enduring security-producing choice you ever make.” (Shanti Feldhahn)