My beautiful wonderful sisters in Christ!
I hope this is a wonderful morning for you! I have not been awake very long, but so far I have been blessed beyond measure.
The Lord is doing great work in my life--quiet work, nothing huge or obvious, but great nonetheless. He is working on my contentment. In the Bible it says "Contentment with godliness is great gain". How right He is! I used to understand the verse to mean "great spiritual gain", but I understand now that it is also tremendous personal gain for myself and my family. I LIKE being content! Not striving, not stewing, not fretting. Just a happy little bee buzzing around my hive with my two little baby bees humming beside me, filling our time with work, service, and learning until daddy bee comes home :).
I am very rarely content. I have always felt a sense of striving. I am not sure why. Sometimes it is because I am discontent with my surroundings. Sometimes it is because I am discontent with myself (often that is the case, actually). I will sometimes keep a constant dialogue in my head of discontent and condemnation of myself. I felt it land square on top of me yesterday, and I spent much time in irritation at things not working right, at the cold, at myself for not watching the clock better. I started begging the Lord for us to move. I realize now that when I allow myself to do that, I get into a temper tantrum, so I stopped begging. I might not be CONTENT to be here, but at least I can stop putting fuel on the fire!
This morning i read a WONDERFUL blog...one I had not been to in a few weeks. Lady Lydia had an absolutely beautiful piece on contentment. http://homeliving.blogspot.com/ It filled me with ...well contentment! I realized that this is some of the work that the Lord is working in me right now--to be content.
I do not know why I fight contentment--it feels so wonderful! It is peaceful and pleasant, altogether wonderful. I fight it, though, because I think I will be HAPPY if things are the way I want them, when really I am called to find JOY and CONTENTMENT and PEACE, no matter what the circumstances.
What is the difference between joy and happiness? Many people do not see a difference. FOR ME, and this is me, I am reminded of a phrase I heard once "Happiness depends on happenings". Happiness is the emotion we get when things are going right in our lives (again, this is my opinion).
I did a VERY quick search in both the NIV and the KJV of happy/happiness, content/contentment, and joy/joyful to see what context they were used and how many times those words came up. This was a VERY unscientific search (I would need to go back to the original Aramaic and Hebrew to see root words, etc) but it did give me a very interesting overview:
In the Word, when looking up happy/happiness vs joy/joyful, most of the time when "happy" was used, it denoted an emotion about a positive event. For example, a woman finding herself with child, a master who calls a servant to share in the good things the master has ("come share in your master's happiness"), or even Haman when he thought he was going to get rewarded. Nearly all the verses have something to do with events that one would expect someone to be happy in.
Joy, however, is often associated with the Lord and seems to have deep spiritual roots. Praising Him with joy, or finding joy in suffering, or joy after sorrow, or joy in the Lord. Joy seems to have a deep, abiding presence, even if the "happenings" do not seem good.
Now, of course there is overlap between the two! And this does not mean that we should not be happy when the Lord has blessed us--in fact, quite the opposite! Praise Him for His mighty blessings in your life! He brings happiness to your life. He gives you moments of just pure happiness, where you can just ....well....be happy!
But to me joy is sort of like "love thy enemy" thing, and happiness is more like love that you would feel for people whom you enjoy and who bring blessing to your life. Both are quite good, but joy is one of those mysteries of the Lord that the unsaved do not understand--how you can praise the Lord even when you are in the midst of stressful or difficult situations. It is joy I think, more than happiness, that we can demonstrate in our lives to the unsaved to bring them to Christ. They already know how to be happy...but do they know the Source of joy?
Contenment falls in line, from the quick reading I read, with joy. Though not mentioned often in the Word, contentment is not dependent of what is going on in your life, but rather something deep to strive for "Godliness with contenment is great gain" and "Be content with what you have". The only two physical conditions that I saw associated with contentment were food and clothing. Anything else is just icing.
I will be honest, I fluctuate between joy (and contentment) and happiness (looking at my happenings). The only thing that saves me, I think, from making a big huge mess in my discontent is remembering Sarai (before she became Sarah) and how she lost patience about not having a baby, did not wait on the Lord, and tried to rush the Lord. I am terrified of rushing the Lord and making a mess (though I have definitely made messes before!). I know that the Lord knows what I want to be happy. But I am realizing that He wants me to be content and joyful. It is a slow lesson for me to learn! But that blog entry by Lady Lydia was balm to my spirit and mind.
What is the Lord teaching you in your life? He might be teaching you contentment too! Or maybe He is teaching you joy or patience, industry or forgiveness for yourself or for others.
He always works in your life....have you sat down today away from people, the computer, the tv, the radio, the phone and just said "Lord, what lesson are You having me learn?" and then think carefully about your recent life and see what work He is doing? Give it a try. Understand that He is teaching you EVERY minute. For me, that builds my faith because I get restless if I think that my life is in freefall, that He is not there every second. But when I realize that He is working, that makes me better--I do not feel as restless or striving.
If you do not mind, if you read this, post what the Lord is teaching you. You do not have to go into details at all if you do not want to...in fact, if He is guiding you from a personal sin, you can just say "He is guiding me from a personal sin" or "He is teaching me obedience" or something. I find it faith building for myself when I speak (either vocally or in writing) the work that the Lord is doing in my life.
So what is He teaching you today? If you do not know, go ask! :-)