Life, even for the best of us, has its ups and downs. That is
not going to change, but there is a way to make the


far more common than the


The key is to strive for joy rather than happiness.
Life, even for the best of us, has its ups and downs. That is not going to change, but there is a way to make the “ups” far more common than the “downs.” The key is to strive for joy rather than happiness.

The difference between the two is significant. Happiness is based on circumstances. If things are going well, we are happy, if they’re not, we are unhappy. Unfortunately, circumstances in today’s world are usually poor, so happiness is becoming more and more elusive.

Joy, on the other hand, is not tied to circumstances. Rather, it is the positive confidence one feels from knowing and trusting God regardless of circumstances. Joy is a key component of what Galatians 5 calls the “fruit of the Spirit.” It is a gift from God, but we must prepare our hearts to receive it by first identifying and eliminating those things that are robbing us of joy. There are three primary killjoys: selfishness, resentment and fear.

The first (and most common) killjoy is selfishness. It’s saying, “I want what I want, and I don’t care what others want until I get mine …” James 4:1 asks, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren’t they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them.”

This passage points out that the root problem between you and those around you is real simple: a power struggle! The result? “Wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be confusion and every other kind of evil” (James 3:16). You simply cannot be joyful and selfish at same time, because selfishness kills joy.

A second joy-killer is resentment. Resentment says, “I won’t forgive you.” We hurt each other intentionally and unintentionally, and no matter how careful you are, you’re going to hurt other people and be hurt by others. It is unavoidable in any relationship you have. But it’s what you do with the hurt that determines whether you are going to be joyful or miserable.

Hebrews 12:15 admonishes us, “Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” Bitterness of spirit has robbed many a man and woman of joy.

I’ve heard people say, “I don’t love him/her anymore … and I don’t hate them either … I just feel nothing for them.” When I hear that statement I know resentment is involved, because resentment always eats up emotional energy. If you spend all your time resenting what has been done to you, you will eventually have no emotional energy left; you’ll be left empty inside.

A third joy-killer you need to be aware of is fear. When fear builds up in your life, joy goes out. All that is left is worry. Proverbs 12:25 tells us something we know all too well, “An anxious heart weighs us down.” Fear causes us to build an isolation booth around us and say, “I will never let another person hurt me.” And building these kinds of walls leads only to one place: misery. When we are full of fear there can be no emotional intimacy, and when there is no emotional intimacy, there is no joy.

When we look at the three killjoys of fear, selfishness and resentment and realize what a large part they play in our day-to-day lives, our question becomes, “how can I overcome them and attain the joy I so desperately seek?” Next week we will look at the key to victory: perspective.

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