I was sitting across from a supervisor as he told me about my job performance. I was hyped for this meeting, because I was pretty sure I was going to get the praise I had worked really hard for. This was a job I had really given my all to. I desperately wanted to succeed at this place. I mean it was part of my identity. For a long time I had poured a lot of my best efforts into this gig, and I honestly thought I stood out from the crowd. I thought that people talked about how different I was from the others who had the same role as me, that I was a shining example of competence and diligence.
He told me that I was performing a little below average.
And that others had complained about me.
And that things needed to change for me to keep the job.
Man, believe me when I tell you I was crestfallen.
I’m often reaping the results of putting too much of my heart’s hope in things that just can’t bear its weight. And what I’m learning from experience and what I know from the Bible is this: The more you invest your heart in things that can’t be spoiled, the sturdier your joy will be.
I’ve been bummed about having to re-think my calling or my place in the world, before. And I’ve been depressed after sports heartbreaks (fresh wound: the Bengals had a gutwrenching playoff loss to the Steelers Saturday night). And I remember being pretty despondent after at least one election. I’ve wrestled my whole adult life with the temptation to find my meaning and joy and hope in something other than Jesus Christ. There isn’t a day that goes by, I don’t think, when I don’t at least momentarily love something or someone more than God.
And it always ends badly. It leaves my hope and my gladness in the hands of something temporary, something that can be taken from me. Finding my biggest happiness in anything but Jesus is always a recipe for temporary happiness.
Sometimes I obsess over the opinion my peers (or friends or enemies or relatives) have of me. Sometimes I might worry and fret about a financial problem. There are days I may just look forward to TV or food far more than I do prayer or time in God’s Word. Whatever the thing is, I’m telling you this is a constant, hourly struggle.
But I can’t give up the fight to find my joy and hope in God. I have to keep at this. Because if I don’t, if I surrender to the pull of this world and start putting my hope in created things rather than the Creator, I’ll be the worst kind of vulnerable. I’ll be at the mercy of idols. And idols make terrible gods. Just ask the Old Testament Israelites.
If my day-to-day joy is in Jesus Christ, then it can’t be decimated by housing crises, sports scores, job screwups, or overdraft fees. If my deepest happiness is coming from the presence of the Lord God, it won’t have drastic fluctuations that are based on my circumstances. It won’t be like the stock market, up and then down and then up again, virtually unpredictable. It’ll be a strong, dependable thing, like the sunrise. New every morning.
Constant, sustainable joy can only come from an eternally good source. If I want to have that, the kind of spiritual gladness that can get me through poverty or persecution or a child dying or a cancer diagnosis, it has to come from enjoyment in Jesus.
This is a war I’ve had to wage daily for as long as I can remember. And I’ve lost a lot of the battles. But eternal joy is a weighty thing, so I’ve counted the cost. And I’ve decided I’ll keep fighting to savor the only One who offers it.