Happiness Is Not An Entitlement: Work For Joy

The “disease model” of mental health asserts that good feelings come effortlessly to “normal” people, so bad feelings are evidence of a disease…Here is an alternative: Happiness is a skill that must be learned…

Refuse to see happiness as an entitlement.

Loretta G. Breuning, “The Therapy-Industrial Complex,” THE EPOCH TIMES, 8/25-8/31/2021

Work For Your Joy

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

2 Corinthians 1:24

Did you catch that? We work, Paul wrote, with you for your your joy.

Which means, we’re not entitled to joy and happiness is not a right. I don’t want the point to get lost in my words: You’ve got to work for joy.

And I mean that as 100% encouragement. Because too many of us have bought into the lie that says if we’re normal and healthy we’ll never feel flat, lonely or blue. And, while we might not say it this way, that we have a right to be happy.

But that’s wrong.

Happiness Is Not A Right

Pursue it, as our Founding Fathers said. Work for it with all your might. Fight for it. But please don’t say it’s your right.

You’re not entitled to it. Joy is a gift. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, meaning it’s given by God. Joy happens. We can’t command it. But we can work for. We can work to place ourselves where joy is more likely to be found. I can’t command a splendid sunset, but I can get out of this hickory woods in the evening and face west toward an open field.

I’m more likely to enjoy a drop-dead sunset there that facing east in my forest. But if I do get to savor that sun, I didn’t earn it. I worked to get where it’s found. But I don’t deserve it. Sun like that is sheer gift.

Count It All Joy

James wrote, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

I’m not an accountant by trade, but my work this Labor Day and every other day is to count it all joy.

The Greek word for translated as count is an accounting sort of word. It means to evaluate our trials somehow not on the debit but on the blessing side.

Learning to retrain my brain to reframe pain, and to count trials as joy is a mighty work. It takes effort to learn to count that way. Yes, happiness is a skill to be learned.

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

(Maybe) Abraham Lincoln

Fighters For Joy

These three have helped teach me not to take unhappiness sitting down. They teach me to work for joy.

Flannery O’Connor

A decade ago I read a quote about stalking joy. I think of it today.

Flannery O’Connor wrote,

Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy—fully armed too as it’s a highly dangerous quest. The other day I ran up on a wonderful quotation: “The dragon is at the side of the road watching those who pass. Take care lest he devour you! You are going to the Father of souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.”

I love this image. I live this image. My ground teeth and furrowed brow, out I stalk joy. I dare the joy-stealing dragon to breathe his fire as I pass—my eyes set on the city that is to come.

Because I know there is full joy in the presence of my Father, I press on.

George Mueller

George Mueller ran orphanages in England in the 1800’s. He was a joy crusader. You may have read this quote before. I return to it again and again,

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. 

My primary business each morning is the same. And I assure you, many days it takes a fight. It takes a prayer and verse and another prayer and a verse and forcing myself to give thanks for five things before I roll out of bed to, many days, tasks I dread.

Happy making is a great business.

John Piper

John Piper is all about finding joy in Jesus. And all about fighting for it relentlessly. In fact, “Every Morning There’s War in the Piper Household,”

The fight of faith is the fight for joy. I wake up every morning and fight that fight. Am I wanting to look at Twitter before I look at Jesus? It sounds stupid. That’s how stupid sin is. Every morning there’s war in the Piper household, and it’s not against my family; it’s against me.

Every day, Piper does what David did (Psalm 101:8), Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land.

We stalk joy to get our souls happy in Jesus every single day. When we feel blue, we neither fear we are diseased, nor give up the fight. We grind our teeth and stalk our way past the ancient serpent that would forever steal our joy.

Because we know joy is not a given and happiness is not our right. Joy is a gift of God and a Spirit-fruit that grows as we fight the good fight of faith. We labor to be happy in Jesus until the day we die.

But then again, like Lewis wrote, Joy is the serious business of heaven.

Fight the good fight of the faith.

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

Afterward: But what about?

When asked about the disconnect between “steady state joy” and the fight for it, John Piper offered three reasons for the disconnect:

  1. Personality. Cheerfulness comes more naturally to some. It’s not the same thing as joy, but it’s a head start.
  2. Sin in in our lives. Indwelling sin precludes joy in the Christ follower. God intended that.
  3. Life in a broken world. Pain, weeping people, and perishing people stifle joy. We are sorrowful and rejoicing.

This wasn’t a how-to post. I wrote this JoyPrO to persuade you that happiness isn’t your right, so you’re not discouraged when it’s absent and you go after it with a fight. But if you want “15 Tactics For Joy,” look here. For one described in detail look here.

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