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Happiness or Joy?

Happiness or Joy?

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This morning when I opened my email, there was an article called, “We’re Getting ‘Happy’ Wrong.” The author, Aytekin Tank, went on to explain why even if you win a million euros, the happiness and excitement that came with winning will quickly fade. He said that being happy is not about reaching a milestone, because our tendency is to adapt to the new normal and then that becomes “the baseline against which further events are judged.” We can wear ourselves out constantly striving for “success” or “happiness.” Tank’s solution is for us to find a new measuring stick that we use to define happiness. His advice was simple: “Here’s the new yardstick: Become aware of what you’re good at and what you like doing, then go do it.” Sounds simple enough. But is it true?

The one thing Tank seems to get right is when he advised us to embrace the process, flipping “our focus from fleeting, external factors to internal ones.” By this he means that as we learn to overcome things we grow in character, thus “becoming the versions of ourselves we want to be as we chase after the things we want to do.” This kind of sounds right, but what he is still missing is that as long as the focus remains on us and what we want and what we do well, we will continue to find happiness only for a time until the situation changes.

The Bible views things from a completely different point of view. In the book of James 1:12 it says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” How is that possible? When our eyes are focused on what God wants to do in our lives, then we know that “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Similar to what Tank said about focusing on character growth, if we keep our eyes focused on God and what HE wants and our purpose in life, trusting that God is in control and has a purpose for everything, then we can remain in His joy.

Elisabeth Elliot is a Christian author and speaker who became well known when her young husband, Jim Elliot, was killed while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca tribe in eastern Ecuador back in 1956. After his death, she returned as a missionary to the very people who killed her husband. Elisabeth learned the meaning of joy in spite of one’s situation. She said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” Circumstances change, but true joy in Christ is eternal. (CompellingTruth.org). That is the difference between eternal joy and temporary happiness.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
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Happiness or Joy?

Captured by Bandits

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I have been given the privilege of chairing an accreditation team for ACSI, our accrediting body. This week I have been in Tirana, Albania, at a sister school called GDQ International Christian School. When I first saw the name of their school, I became curious. What did GDQ stand for? I learned that the school is named after an Albanian evangelist, Gjerasim D. Qiriaz, who lived during the late 1800s and is known for founding the first Albanian school for girls.

I ordered a book about his life called, “Captured by Brigands,” so that I could learn more about him before I travelled to Albania. He only lived for 35 years, and during his lifetime he accomplished so much for God. The book focuses on his time of captivity when he was 26. Gjerasim was on a missionary journey when he was captured by a group of violent bandits who thought that they could get a huge ransom for his return. They did not realize that he was not a wealthy man and that they would get nothing from his family.

When he was first taken, he began to realize that the outcome did not look good and that he would probably not make it out alive. The book quotes him as saying, “I mourned not so much for my life as for my work. Just then I had begun to labour for my people, and day by day my desire to preach the Words of Life to them was growing. Why, then, has God put me into the hands of these brigands? My heart longed for neither riches nor for any other thing pleasing to the flesh. I had only one thing in mind—the spreading of light among my countrymen. Why then should God forget me?”

I have a feeling that if I were in his situation, I probably would have the same doubts and questions that he had. He felt that he was doing good things for God, and yet it appeared that God had forgotten him, allowing him to suffer a horrible fate at the hands of the bandits. But then he recalled that he saw a beautiful flower sticking up through an inch of snow. This sight reminded him of the verses in Matthew where we are told that if God cares for the flowers of the field that are only alive for a day, how much more so does God care for us, His children? The passage ends with the words, “O ye of little faith.”

These five words challenged Gjerasim to cling to his faith knowing that we serve an Almighty God that would work out His purposes in Gjerasim’s life, not in spite of this situation, but because of this situation. We know that Gjerasim made it out of his time of captivity and went on to do great things for His Lord.

If this story intrigues you, I encourage you to read more about the life of “GDQ.” Let us all be reminded of God’s Words of encouragement that are found in Matthew 6: 28-34. Do not worry about tomorrow. God is in control!

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
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Happiness or Joy?

Showing Favoritism

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One of the reasons that I love riding the U-bahn each day is because of all the different people that I get to see. I find people incredibly interesting, and oftentimes quite funny. One day this summer, a lady boarded my train, and I immediately did a double-take. You see, this person was rather flamboyant. She was dressed up so that when she walked into the train, all eyes were on her. She had this huge hairstyle, most probably a wig, tons of make-up, crazy stockings, a short skirt. You get the picture. She definitely didn’t fit in the commuter setting of the train.

I sat there quietly watching her, and then we both exited the train at the same station. Instead of heading toward the stairs, she walked to the side, so I thought that maybe she was meeting someone there. That’s not what she did. She fumbled through her huge bag to find some money, and then she bent over and gave it to the beggar on the floor.

I must admit that I hadn’t looked upon her favorably. She was an oddity to me. I hadn’t even noticed the beggar sitting quietly to the side, but she did. And she did not hesitate to go and share what she had with this man. I left the station feeling disappointed in myself. Why is it so easy to get a bad impression of someone just because they are different? Why do we form our impression of people by what we initially see? Why do we even think negatively about someone because they are different than we are?

This week in chapel, Mr. Totten, our school chaplain, challenged us all to look around us and to determine together that we will seek to support each other. ICSV now has students from 67 different countries! We are an incredibly diverse group of people. Mr. Totten challenged us to not view those who are different than ourselves in a negative way. He reminded us of the passage in the Bible where the Apostle James asks us to think how we would act if a rich man came into our church service or meeting and then a poor man came in who was wearing filthy clothes. Would our first thought be to treat the rich man well, giving him the best seat in the house, while telling the poor guy to sit over there on the floor? Is that not what I was doing when I immediately thought that person on my train was weird? Not as good as me? But that day in the subway station, who showed love to our neighbor? The lady with the big hair and strange make-up did. I was very humbled that day.

May we use this year as a time when we can show the world what it is like for such different people to come together in love and support of each other. May we never judge others because of our first impression of them. Instead, let us accept and honor those who are different, for that is pleasing to the Lord.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
Director

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