9/07/2007

Nine Reasons Why Christianity is The Only True Religion, Part 9: Christianity Leads to Joy

Psychology, the way people think, has always been a fascination of mine. I took enough psychology classes in college to have been awarded a minor, but the engineering department did not want to award it (some things hard-core engineers will not “sink” to do). Great care must be used by a Christian in this area (especially if we are tempted to supplant the gospel), but the concepts can often be redeemed.

Temperament theory has roots in the psychology of Carl Jung, but can be traced back to Hippocrates. It is undeniably imperfect, and some have even rejected the theories altogether. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has probably been the most successful application of these theories.

(Note: be wary of some of the information on web sites that talk about Myers-Briggs. Good guidelines are located here.)

I am an INJT (see here and here). I am not unique in this. By type, I keep my feelings “close to my vest.” One INTJ put it like this, “I have deep feelings; they are just none of your business.”

It might surprise those who know a little about INTJ’s (especially those who know me personally) that I want to be happy. Not just happy-go-lucky, smile all the time, laugh at everything type happy, but truly happy. The more sanguine among us can have that approach.

I want to be happy in the sense of being “blessed” or “delighted.” It might help to remind of the old adage, “Still waters run deep.”

John Piper has been a great help to me in many ways. His teaching, though imperfect, has reinforced much of what I have learned about the way my heart works.

God made us to live a moral life, and we should not be surprised that moral living gives us joy. This joy is at a profound level that can even motivate us to give our lives over to suffering and death on Christ’s behalf. The idea is not that our happiness is the greatest good; it is that God’s glory is what we are made for. Living for His glory gives us joy.

I have not found a worldview or religion that can come close to Christianity in providing joy in my life. This joy has lead to great positive changes, and I will describe those changes in the last post of this series.

2 comments:

Steve Newell said...

So does God want me to be happy? If so, then why does God allow bad things to happen in my file that cause me not be happy? Is there a difference between happy and joy? The reason that I ask this question is that many in our culture, and in the Church, confuse happiness and joy.

J. K. Jones said...

Steven,

Thanks for another insightful comment. I can’t just give this one a short answer, and I hope that you will take the time to read the long one.

Yes, God desires ultimate joy for His people. Ultimate joy is found in glorifying God above all others and all things. It is found in the sure conviction that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

It’s not “Don’t worry be happy.” That’s an old Bobby McFerrin song. It’s not Stoicism because it sees evil and suffering to be both real and wrong.

Piper does a good job with this here: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1994/887_Why_We_Can_Rejoice_in_Suffering/

I also like R. C. Sproul’s approach to suffering as a vocation, a job God has for His people to do. The best book outside the Bible on suffering in the life of the Christian is R. C.’s “Surprised by Suffering.” I have found in my own life a particular and peculiar ‘joy in my work.’

I have faced many painful things as a Christian (i. e. the implications of near-fatal childhood disease, a broken engagement with one, a divorce from another, a car-wreck that has left me with some ongoing handicap, watching my mother die one bit at a time with a debilitating disease, prolonged infertility in marriage, and my own struggle with besetting sin). I cannot explain the joy I have felt in those experiences. It’s different than happiness the way our culture usually defines happiness, but not entirely different.

It’s a joy in the chance to display the glory of God through enduring pain and suffering. It’s a joy in the knowledge that God gives purpose to the most difficult trials.

It’s an unexplainable happiness that the pain has a reason and a purpose. Life without God leaves us with no purpose in our suffering and no reason to live.

God’s purpose for suffering in my life is rarely, if ever, known to me; and it is never known with certainty. But saying we don’t know the reason is much different from saying that there is no reason. As Victor Frankel was quick to point out in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” suffering without a purpose is impossible to endure (Of course I don’t agree with all of Frankel’s conclusions.).

I have joy in the supernatural ability God gives to praise Him even when I don’t understand Him or what He does. He just shows up like he did for Job at the end of the book that bears his name. William Cowper does a good job with that:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purpose will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
the bud may have bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

(http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1463_Insanity_and_Spiritual_Songs_in_the_Soul_of_a_Saint/)

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