I am not a people person. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people whom I love. In general, though, I’m not the type to go out and make new friends on a regular basis. It’s not that I don’t want to make new friends, it’s just that talking to strangers is not one of my favorite things in the world. I definitely would not describe myself as a social butterfly.
In fact, I consider myself to be a little bit shy. Not painfully so, but just a little. Many people may not even notice this because I hide it so well, but it’s still there underneath. Besides that, I have a tendency to be a tad bit awkward. Perhaps this isn’t noticeable to others either, but I sure see it. I think maybe my biggest “problem” is just that I am a fairly quiet person. I don’t mind being the quiet one in the group who just sort of… observes. Of course, if I really know somebody well and feel completely comfortable around them, then I tend to be more fun and goofy. It takes a little extra time for me to break out of my shell around people, though. It takes a very long time for me to stop being self-conscious with the people I meet.
Despite all of that, however, people are hugely important to me. To be more specific, having people’s love and approval is one of the things I care about most. When I feel close to my friends and family I feel great joy. When I feel like my friends or family members are distant, uninterested in me, or disapproving, I feel terrible sadness. Sometimes I can feel pretty close to my friends and totally at peace with my family, yet I still long for more. It’s like I need everybody to be holding hands and singing happy songs in a circle for me to feel fully satisfied! Yet, for obvious reasons, that isn’t practical nor is it possible. And because of that, I often find myself feeling lonely or disappointed, even when my relationships are going well.
A few weeks ago, I began attending a summer study with my church called “Choose Joy.” This study has been absolutely wonderful. I’ve learned so much about what it means to choose to have joy in my life, and how I can learn to do it. One of the things that I learned is that many people search for joy in certain areas of their life instead of searching for it in God. For example, my biggest false source of joy is people. I find my fulfillment when the relationships in my life are going well.
Other false sources of joy that I learned about in the study are one’s surroundings, possessions, and status. Some people search for joy through the places that they live or travel to. Other people find it with the accumulation of money and nice things. Many people also try to find joy through their social status, such as popularity, level of education, position at work, or marital status. Or, like me, they try to find joy through their relationships (familial, friendly, romantic, or all of the above.)
I’ve also discovered some other false sources of joy that I tend to fall into. One of them is leisure time. If I am having fun, relaxing, or otherwise enjoying myself, then I tend to feel very joyful. However, I find it very difficult to be joyful at work or when I’m studying for a test. Another one for me is change. Unlike most people I know, I absolutely love change. I love new schools, new years, new jobs, new pets, new gadgets, new episodes of my favorite shows, new books, new houses, new anything really. In fact, when things haven’t changed in a while, I start to get restless. I rearrange my room in an effort to make things slightly different, or go out and get a new pet (and effectively drive my dad crazy as a result). Yes, I love change and new things. They make me feel happy! Until I get bored of them of course.
Which brings me to my main point. As I mentioned before, these are not true sources of joy. Sure, they can genuinely make you happy and they can even last for quite a while. But they are ultimately false sources of joy because no matter how happy they make you in the short run, they will never last in the long run. Like it or not, you will lose (and gain!) friends over the years. You will fight with your spouse, and feel distant at times. You will probably not live in your dream spot, and you may not be able to travel the world. Fun gadgets break, and money runs out. And if you are banking on these things to make you happy, then when the time comes that they fail you, you will find yourself gravely disappointed.
Fortunately, there is good news. Though none of these things can keep you fulfilled or bring you lasting joy, God can! He is the true source of joy. He will never fail you, and he will never leave. Even I, a woman who loves change, can appreciate the fact that God never changes. That’s because knowing that God doesn’t change can bring you strength when life doesn’t go according to plan. If I look to Jesus as my ultimate and primary source of joy, then I can keep that joy with me even when the other things in my life are not going so well.
In a marriage, this is especially important. Many people, both men and women, try to find their joy mainly through their spouse. This is a false source of joy because putting all of the responsibility for your happiness on one person is simply too much of a burden for any human to handle. Depending on your spouse for your joy will not leave you feeling satisfied most of the time. Any time that you fight, or grow distant, or even just get out of sync for a day, your joy will suffer. That’s going to be quite a rollercoaster of joy and sadness! Instead, focus on God for your joy and you will find that He not only fulfills you Himself, but enables you to enjoy your spouse more fully.
I’ve made this mistake with my fiancé. I’ve tried to depend on him to keep me happy. Even now, as our wedding day is approaching, I find myself thinking that “once we are married, everything will be perfect.” I have to catch myself when I think that way, because I know that as wonderful as it will be to be married to him, my life will still not be perfect. And in fact, my life will never be perfect. I live in an imperfect world; we all do. As a result, our lives include suffering.
Fortunately, we are lucky to have a God who loves us enough to save us from that. As a Christian, I know that God is good, loving, and worthy of my praise. I know that He is the only source of truth and the only one who will never fail me. Remembering these things about my Heavenly Father brings me great joy. Focusing on Him has brought the greatest joys into my life: my wonderful fiancé, who is an ever-growing man of God; the amazing, godly women whom I call my friends; my relationships with my family members, which have been continuously improving as I’ve sought God’s wisdom with them; the wonderful church and ministry opportunities that God is using to draw me closer to Him. These things make me truly happy, and I praise Him for that, always keeping in mind that He is the source of that joy. That way, when the blessings in my life are not so abundant, I can still hold on to the joy that comes from a God who never changes.
Sometimes, I fail at choosing God as my source of joy. Ok, that is a bit of an understatement; I fail on an embarrassingly regular basis. But I am still growing in my faith and learning the ways of a God-centered life, something I plan to continue doing for the rest of my life. So even when I fail, I know that I can get back on the right track with only a simple reminder about something I know to be true. It is only through a deep trust in God and a determination to praise him through the ups and downs of life that we can find true and lasting joy.