What’s the definition of Joy? Webster defines it as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. It’s interesting to me that joy is a noun, but it takes an act of a verb to produce it. A verb is an action word. So what action are we embracing to create joy?
There’s a story of King Solomon, a very wise and powerful man, in the book of Ecclesiastes he looks back over his life and summarizes it for us. He set out to push the limits of what a human could do through power, wealth, self-indulgence or discipline. He sampled all that life had to offer and concludes that life is nothing but ‘hebel’ –a puff of air. He’s known for saying “all streams flow to the sea, but the sea is never full” (Ecclesiastes 1:7). He moaned that people work hard to be able to eat and wake up hungry in the morning. He opens the chapter with his thoughts, “Everything is pointless.”
He continues to say in Ecclesiastes 1: 3-2:11,
Some things are inevitable
3 What do people gain from all the hard work
that they work so hard at under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains as it always has.
5 The sun rises, the sun sets;
it returns panting to the place where it dawns.
6 The wind blows to the south,
goes around to the north;
around and around blows the wind;
the wind returns to its rounds again.
7 All streams flow to the sea,
but the sea is never full;
to the place where the rivers flow,
there they continue to flow.
8 All words[a] are tiring;
no one is able to speak.
The eye isn’t satisfied with seeing,
neither is the ear filled up by hearing.
9 Whatever has happened—that’s what will happen again;
whatever has occurred—that’s what will occur again.
There’s nothing new under the sun. 10 People may say about something: “Look at this! It’s new!” But it was already around for ages before us. 11 There’s no remembrance of things in the past, nor of things to come in the future. Neither will there be any remembrance among those who come along in the future.
The Teacher’s quest
12 I am the Teacher. I was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 I applied my mind to investigate and to explore by wisdom all that happens under heaven. It’s an unhappy obsession that God has given to human beings.
14 When I observed all that happens under the sun, I realized that everything is pointless, a chasing after wind.
15 What’s crooked can’t be straightened;
what isn’t there can’t be counted.
16 I said to myself, Look here, I have grown much wiser than any who ruled over Jerusalem before me. My mind has absorbed great wisdom and knowledge. 17 But when I set my mind to understand wisdom, and also to understand madness and folly, I realized that this too was just wind chasing.
In much wisdom is much aggravation;
the more knowledge, the more pain.
2 I said to myself,[b] Come, I will make you[c] experience pleasure; enjoy what is good! But this too was pointless! 2 Merriment, I thought, is madness; pleasure, of no use at all. 3 I tried cheering myself with wine and by embracing folly—with wisdom still guiding me—until I might see what is really worth doing in the few days that human beings have under heaven.
4 I took on great projects: I built houses for myself, planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made gardens and parks for myself, planting every kind of fruit tree in them. 6 I made reservoirs for myself to water my lush groves. 7 I acquired male servants and female servants; I even had slaves born in my house. I also had great herds of cattle and sheep, more than any who preceded me in Jerusalem. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, the treasures of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers for myself, along with every human luxury, treasure chests galore![d] 9 So I became far greater than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Moreover, my wisdom stood by me. 10 I refrained from nothing that my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. Indeed, my heart found pleasure from the results of my hard work; that was the reward from all my hard work. 11 But when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I had worked so hard to achieve, I realized that it was pointless—a chasing after wind. Nothing is to be gained under the sun.
I know that’s a really long passage to say, “Life Sucks!” So why do I bring it up? Joy, like a butterfly, can not be easily filled with things. True joy is found in simple pleasures. King Solomon concluded these things:
A season for everything
3 There’s a season for everything
and a time for every matter under the heavens:
2 a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
3 a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
4 a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
5 a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
6 a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
7 a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
8 a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from all their hard work? 10 I have observed the task that God has given human beings. 11 God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.
12 I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. 13 Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. 14 I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him.[a] 15 Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.[b]
Solomon’s great revelation is that there is nothing better for us to do than to love what we do because that’s all we’re allotted in life. We need to find small pleasures daily. Things that bring us joy are not meant to be saved for special days or people. We need to actively seek out ‘special’. I don’t know what that means to you but I’ve taken this week to watch and ask myself what brings me joy? Joy is a choice.
James tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials, hardships, stretching and pain. What the heck could he have been smoking to come up with that thought? Tough stuff is tough stuff, right?! But tough stuff might also be the very thing that digs a deeper trench in our hearts in order to hold more joy. So here’s the thing—we first need to believe that God is the author of our lives and that He has our best in mind. Reading the verse, saying the verse, acknowledging the verse isn’t enough. Somehow we have to make that belief part of our life so that when trials happen, we trust that He has a specific purpose for us in mind. James talks about his own experiences and how trials test our faith and produce patience. (James 1:3)
James 1:3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. What endurance do you need fine-tuned? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________
The testing of our lives helps us to embrace joy and to learn to stand firm. We will not be that chicken running around screaming that the sky is falling. We’ll have the wisdom to know that whatever is going on is by God’s hand.
Uncluttering Joy means to go through your life with a fine-toothed comb and weed out all the things that rob your joy. Here’s a list to get you started:
Time: Schedule your time on a sheet of paper. Start at the time you get up until the healthy time you should go to bed. See the Sample.
Mark down all the things that are not moveable. Like Work, church, Round Table…things like that. But remember when you go to work, it involves, commute time, getting ready time, etc. so mark that off the calendar.
Mark in your devotion times, your exercise time, your cooking time.
Once that’s all marked down then mark misc. times. For me that’s: calling my mom, taking her to lunch, grocery shopping, gardening time, family time, massages, pedicures, etc.
This is how we schedule joy! Find time to have lunch with someone, using the good China, lay on the couch with a book, take a class. We have to stop thinking of embracing joy later. Too many people live for that 2-week vacation once a year. And in between times fight with anxiety, depression, stress and illness—we sabotage our own joy.
God can not use a worn-out warrior. We must find time to sharpen skills and then bring them to the table rested and full of ideas and strategies. We are surrounded by crowds of witnesses—do our lives reflect something they might want? Start today to cut out things that rob our joy, that sabotage our effectiveness as ambassadors of Christ.
Your Homework this week is to unclutter your schedule. Do, Delegate, Do Away with then Add: direction, relationships, experiences, little joys.