Monthly Faith Focus: Joy Not Happiness
Scripture: John 15: 9 – 14
9 ”As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
I read this passage about two years after my family moved in with my parents to help take care of my father who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Those of you who have been caregivers for someone you love can appreciate how challenging this can be both emotionally and physically, while at the same time one of the most life-giving and rewarding things you can do. I remember being struck by Jesus’ words of promise that as we love one another we may experience joy. I was having a hard time that day feeling any particular joy as my heart was breaking at the decline of my dad and the daily challenges of caring for him, all while knowing that I couldn’t love him any more than I did.
Then it hit me, Jesus’ promise was of God’s joy not necessarily happiness. This is an important distinction. Although we are wired to be in search of happiness, we often find happiness to be fleeting and even outright unattainable. Jesus is speaking about a deep joy that is beyond our own self-centered desires and wants. Jesus describes a love that is willing to sacrifice one’s own interest and comfort for the sake of another, expecting nothing in return. We may not be called to physically die but we are called to put the well-being of another ahead of ourselves. When I put Jesus’ words into that perspective, my heart burst open knowing that it wasn’t about my happiness; but that my love for my dad brought me the closest I might ever get to experiencing the joy that Jesus promises us when we follow his example of unconditional and sacrificial love. We are all invited to love as God loves us and to experience the deepest joy that comes from choosing to put another’s life ahead of our own.
This article was written by Jeanne Maloney who heads up Faith Formation at Saint Peter. Each month she will share articles like these that you are invited to use at home and in your small groups.
Do you find the happiness you search for fleeting?
How have you responded when you have been called to sacrificial love?
Have you experienced Christ’s joy that isn’t tied to your own happiness?
Speak to God, using these words or your own.
Dear Loving Creator,
You are love and you offer yourself to me as love through Jesus. Help me to live in that love and to share that love with everyone around me. May my hands, my feet, my mouth, and my heart be instruments of your love. Allow me to experience your deepest sense of joy as I bear witness to the love of Christ. In the precious name, of Jesus, who loved me enough to die for me, Amen.