Hello there! I hope that this Update finds you healthy and happy--but even moreso that it finds you appreciating God's joy.
As we've been talking about all month here at First Covenant, joy isn't the same as happiness. Happiness is a situation-dependent emotional state (you are happy when circumstances around you create a pleasing atmosphere for you to live in), but joy is a character-dependent state of mind (you have joy when you retain a deep, abiding sense that you can trust God to have the benevolence and omnipotence to be on top of things--and to be on top of things appropriately).
Thus, when you grieve the loss of a loved one, you probably won't feel happy about it--but you can still rest in God's joy, knowing that they're with Him, or appreciating the comfort and encouragement that He shows you in your time of grief, or even by realizing that God, too, knows this feeling, as He grieved over His friend, Lazarus, and as He grieves over His sinful children, lost and needlessly alone, wandering in the dark of this world. You can have joy, even in the midst of non-happiness. But you have to dive deep to find joy--happiness only lives in the shallows.
This Saturday (April 5), we'll be hosting a seminar on grief and consolation here at First Covenant, led by a retired hospice chaplain in our area. This is something that all of us will face in life, but few of us feel comfortable that we know how to deal with, so I invite you to join us from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. If you would like more information about this seminar, or would like to RSVP,please contact the church office at 688-4323. But even if you can't RSVP, please feel free to join us this Saturday
.In our message this week, we talked about another kind of joy--the kind that comes from a purity that just can't be found outside of God. Kierkegaard said that "purity of heart" is to will one thing, to have one, singular focus in our will. Now, that can be focused on bad things (you can be "purely evil"), but his point was to focus on God's will and make His will your own (kind of like Jesus did at Gethsemane in Matthew 26:39).
It's hard to have purity of heart in this world, since everything around us constantly pulls us this way and that. We have 47 priorities and 153 plans going at any given time, and we often find ourselves barely able to keep up with our "to-do" lists. But what if, instead of all of that, we had one, clear priority, and live it out in more of a "to-be" list? If we made honoring God the one, clear priority in each part of our lives today--if we really, seriously said at the beginning of each day, "Not my will but yours today, God"--what would the result be?
I'll be honest--I like to nibble at righteousness, but I seldom hunger and thirst for it like God sculpted me to do. I fill myself with other thoughts--a plethora of spiritual and intellectual junk food--instead of really developing a passion for the things of God on a daily basis. I'm not talking about everyone becoming a monk or studying Greek or going into full-time ministry or anything--I'm just talking about making sure that my first, best, clearest, purist priority every day is what honors God the most.
I've personally found that when I focus on being the man that God wants me to be--when I hunger and thirst for His righteousness, and make sure that my heart is purely on Him--then the rest of my day tends to fall into place a lot better than when I focus on getting everything done that I'd planned to do. Sure, I can be happy when my "to-do" list is all checked off, but when I focus on my "to-be" list, I find the joy that comes from being in the presence of the God who built me, the God who sustains me, and the God who brings me joy in the first place.
What should be on your "to-be" list today?