“It is just a one-time thing. No one will ever know.”
“It is your choice.”
“Seize the day!”
“Choose to be happy.”
These pithy little sayings have the appearance of good and loving advice. It sounds like anything you could hear from a friend as you sit down to a cup of coffee at your favorite Starbucks.
In our me-centered existence that majors on comfort and scoffs at the suggestion of sacrifice, advice like this abounds. After all, who WOULDN’T want to be happy? Why would you choose UNHAPPINESS?
Truthfully, the reductionism in the question alone defeat us from even discovering the answer. Who says your choice is short-term happiness or unhappiness? Is it not possible that there is a third and ultimately God-glorifying option? I want to suggest to you that the right option is nearly always “long-term happiness” or what we might call “Joy.”
Joy is a much deeper expression than happiness. Happines is an emotional response to stimuli. I found something on sale, so I am happy. I got a parking place close to the entrance, so I am happy. Joy is: I have developed a long-term security in my finances so I am covered whether something is on sale or not. I train at the gym and am in good shape so I am great whether I park close to the entrance or far away. Now…don’t be put off by the simplicity of these examples. They simply serve to illustrate a greater truth.
When we choose to make decisions that have long-term benefit, we often discover that we give up some short-term rewards. We don’t do so because we desire pain in our lives. That’s ridiculous. We do so because we want to have joy. We are not unhappy in our present circumstance because our objective extends beyond the present.
“Prepare your work outside and make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house.” Provers 24:27.
Here, the writer gives us a principle: You can choose to get your house ready so that you can be comfortable indoors (which is pretty important); or, you can prepare your field (which is time-sensitive) so that you can get the crops in the ground. While they are growing, you can build your house. Then, at the harvest, you will have both produce to eat and a house to eat it in.
Many people miss this. Financially they choose the opposite fo the Proverb. “Let’s go on vacation today to Disney…even if we have to charge it. The kids will only be little for so long! Sure, but now there are a ton of things you cannot do for the following months because you charged an expensive vacation. When the stove went on “the fritz” you had no funds to repair it so you had to charge the replacement on an in-store credit. Now you have enormous debt and you cannot be faithful to other and more important obligations.
Sure, you were happy at Disney. But you had no produce at theharvest. It would have been better to dial it back to a camping trip in a park or take a “stay-cation” and save your cash. Then, next year, you could have enjoyed both Disney and long-term satisfaction. That is Joy.
I want to enjoy sex with someone now…but doing so means I cannot enjoy sex within the design of biblical marriage as intended later. Choosing abstinence now doesn’t equate to choosing drudgery now…it equates to worshipful obedience now and greater God-designed enjoyment later. That is Joy.
Today and tomorrow and the next day, choose Joy…and be happy doing it.