Excerpt from page 354 of The Upper Room Disciplines 2015: A Book of Daily Devotions. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.
Read Philippians 4:4-7
As the song says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” As Americans, we consider the pursuit of happiness one of our “inalienable rights.” We think that having money or being successful or owning the latest gadgets will make us happy, only to discover that having it all is never enough. We become like the rich man who, when asked how much money was enough, replied “just a little more.” Rather than freeing us from worry, constantly pursuing happiness can give us even more to worry about!
So the scripture offers a different message: Don’t worry, be joyful! Happiness and joy are not the same. Happiness floats on the surface of our lives and is easily disturbed by the storms of life, disrupted by external events. Happiness is situational. Joy, on the other hand, lies so deep within our souls that nothing can disturb it. True joy endures through disaster, disappointment, and loss. Happiness centers on self; joy finds expression in relationships, in serving others. Happiness is often achieved by addressing some perceived scarcity, but joy grows out of a celebration of abundance. Happiness can be fleeting; joy is eternal.
The place of joy is the place of God. To live from that place of deep joy frees us from worry. To live as though “the Lord is near,” even when all evidence suggests the contrary, is to practice faith. A line from a Wendell Berry poem puts it this way: “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts” (“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from Collected Poems 1957–1982). Or as Paul says and then says again: “Rejoice!”
What brings you joy? How can you hold fast to that joy even in the face of difficulty?
The Upper Room Disciplines is an award-winning devotional book published annually by Upper Room Books. Fifty-three writers from diverse Christian and cultural backgrounds contribute to this yearlong guide of daily devotionals. They provide insightful reflections on scripture and offer suggestions for applying biblical truths to daily life.
Martha C. Highsmith is associate vice president and lecturer in divinity at Yale University. She also serves as copastor, First Presbyterian Church, Hartford, Connecticut.