What is Deep Joy anyway?
Sometimes it’s easier to explain what a thing is not, so let’s start there. Deep Joy is not happiness. Deep Joy is so much better than mere happiness.
Happiness is situational. When circumstances are great, we’re happy. When they’re not, we’re not happy. Happiness is based on circumstances, and therefore is out of our control. Happiness is from the outside in.
But we buy the culture’s lie that we can control our happiness. We just have to do one simple thing:
- “Buy this widget!”
- “Read this book!”
- “Get that next promotion!”
- “Work harder! Try harder! Play harder! Go, go, go!”
- “You just need a relationship!”
- “Just have enough sex!”
Sound familiar? How many of us live chasing these elusive lies?
Hint: If you live for “that next thing” — the better job, the faster car, the bigger house, the next relationship — you’re living for happiness. And happiness never arrives. There’s always one more thing.
Chasing happiness is like buying your life from a used-car dealer
It’s just never going to live up to the marketing hype. And then we get cynical out of anger at ourselves for having believed the lie. The wounding silences our spirit. We start protecting our heart by living out of our soul.
And then our definition of happiness changes to “just not feeling the pain.” Living out of our soul, we exist to quiet the pain we pretend we don’t hear but just won’t shut up.
One of the dumbest things I often hear my fellow parents say is, “I just want my kids to be happy.” Honestly, I want to smack them. I don’t want my kids to be unhappy, but I want so much more for them than happiness. I want them to live in Deep Joy.
Don’t get me wrong — happiness isn’t bad. Personally, I like happiness; I’ll take it. But I love Deep Joy.
Deep Joy is from the Inside Out
It’s an inner fulfillment that’s independent of your surrounding circumstances. You can be unhappy and in pain, because your outward circumstances stink, but still have Deep Joy and light radiating from your inner being. Regardless of your circumstances, living in Deep Joy leaves you fulfilled and satisfied, always with something to give others. But it comes from your spirit. You can’t get there living out of your soul.
So here’s the deal. We are three-part beings — body, soul, and spirit. Our soul is our mind, will, and emotions.
So often, because of the hurts we’ve received in this life from other wounded people, our hurt and our wounding take over and we live from our soul instead of from our spirit. When we live from our soul, either our mind or our emotions are in charge.
When our mind is in charge, we think we’ll be safe if we have it all figured out. We are in control. Nothing happens without a plan, without our pre-approval. We deceive ourselves into thinking we can push down the pain if we’re in control. We can become a sterile shell of a person. We look great on the outside and fool everyone else, but inside we’re empty and hurting.
When our emotions are in charge, we’re focused on what will make us happy in this moment, ignoring the long-term consequences. We lose our grasp on cause ’n’ effect. We can get into addictions — food, drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, TV — whatever makes us feel “happy” (i.e., not in pain) at the moment. We know the pain is crouching ready to pounce at any moment, but we delay it for just one more instant.
Too many Christians live out one of these two tragedies. That’s because, even though we’re forgiven, we’re not healed. And there’s a mile of difference between being forgiven and being healed.
Living from our soul is not life, it’s just existence. But Jesus died (and lives!) so we can have abundant life. He said himself, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10)
When we Live from our Spirit
Our will is in charge. Our spirit is connected to Jesus, the author of Deep Joy, who sets the direction for our life. From our will, we choose to believe His promises instead of believing our own fear and pain. Our emotions, like pain sensors in our body, are there to tell us when we’re hurting, but they should never set our direction. Our mind is there to devise a good, solid plan for going where our will chooses to go, but it should never set our direction.
So here’s three practical steps for living in Deep Joy from your spirit. You can do these all at the same time or in any order. Often they repeat throughout our life and go deeper each time around.
1) Settle the Question
Deep Joy (fulfillment and satisfaction independent of circumstances that overflow your spirit) only come from one place — relationship with Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He wants to be so much more than your Savior. He wants to be your Lover-King.
Have you, or will you, say “yes” to making him Lord of your life? Is there some area of your life where he’s not Lord? Are you willing to give that area (maybe your whole life) to him? Not because you have to, because you want to, because you’re blown away by his love for you. If you haven’t reached that point yet, that’s ok. Ask him every day to make his love real to you. And then hold on, because here it comes.
2) Go to the Pain
Instead of letting your mind or your emotions protect you from the pain, choose to go to the pain.
Cattle run away from thunderstorms, but because the storm’s moving the same direction, they get soaked a lot longer trying to avoid it. But buffalo run straight into the thunderstorm. Moving in the opposite direction, they get through it must faster.
“Embrace the fireball of pain,” like John Sandford said. Go there and explore it with your spouse, your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, and most of all with Jesus. Let him bring healing and help you forgive. This is a process, be gentle with yourself. But go there. You were created to be brave. You and Jesus can do this.
3) Replace the Lies with the Truth
The pain has such a grip on us because we’ve believed a lot of lies. But lies are built on a house of cards and replacing them with God’s truth blows them away. Sometimes getting one promise of God into your spirit can topple decades of lies.
For example, I believed no one would ever love me. That lie led me to make some really poor choices in my life, even as a life-long Christian. But I’m replacing it with God’s truth, Psalm 139. (In particular, verse14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Verse 17, “How precious about me are your thoughts, O God.” Verse 5, “You have laid your hand upon me.” And many more.)
When the lie invades your mind, whack it over the head by saying out-loud, even if you’re just whispering to yourself, “I take that thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and I choose to believe ____.” Fill in the blank with your promise(s) from God. I found mine in Psalm 139. Where are yours? Here’s another promise of mine, and many other people, whose lies tell them they’ve fallen too far to be redeemable:
Jesus gives me a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of despair, and a garment of praise instead of mourning. (Isaiah 61:3)
Beauty for ashes, gladness for despair, and praise for mourning. I love it! That’s where my Deep Joy comes from.