Saturday, January 9, 2010

A lie we believe

Determining to be happy is so very important.

Deciding to have joy in the face of whatever life throws at us is easier said than done, but if we don't make a conscious decision to move in the right direction, we may find ourselves waiting around for a "reason" to be happy...which may never show up.

Some people never realize that emotions are produced from chemicals, and real joy is a separate thing from the chemical reaction we associate with it. Humans - particularly women - experience "chemical mixings" to the fullest. Breathes there a woman who can say she's never had the experience of being dramatically happy and exhilarated one minute, then plunged into despair and sadness the next?

Granted, we can blame changing emotions on changing circumstances; "I was happy because my day was going so well, but then my younger brother stepped on my MP3 player, and of course I got angry!"

But hold on a minute - if we're honest, I think we'll admit that we also experience those lovely chemical mixings when no outward circumstances gives us a reason. It takes almost nothing to get us to swing from happiness to cloudiness on some days. "Chemical joy" (as I call it) is very, very, very fragile.

That's why I've learned not to be overly excited when I experience it. I know the least little thing can make my contentment and good humor fly away, when it's based on chemical joy. The mere fact that my emotions are based on chemicals makes them fragile and temporary. I can enjoy them while they're there - God gave them to me, after all! - but I have learned I should not exalt myself in them. They aren't given to me for that. They don't prove my character.

So does real joy exist? Oh yes, a thousand times over!!! It doesn't stem from the belly but from the heart. And it isn't high and dizzy, but deep and peaceful. It has foundations of fact. That's what makes it real; it's built on things that don't change. It is possible for real joy to leave, but it doesn't jump around like chemical joy does; there's always a reason for its absence, and always a logical way to go about finding it again.

I started this post planning to write on a totally different topic, but I'm glad my fingers and mind found their way into this topic instead. I need the reminder. Sometimes I get so happy when chemical joy finds its way into my heart that I am content to have just that. I don't bother to seek out the Source of real joy....which, incidentally, is a WHO, not a WHAT. :)

Because, you see, real joy is a gift from God, yet it's also earned. Chemical joy is nice because you don't do anything unpleasant to get it; it just pops in from nowhere...and disappears the same way. But real joy can require many unpleasant things to get it.

I must humble myself in order to have real joy. God resists the proud; He doesn't give gifts to them, and real joy is a gift.

I must take my eyes off other things and focus them on Jesus. As the Source of real joy, my attention must be fixed solely on Him if I want to receive it. This can sometimes mean giving up the chemical joy that those "things" give me.

I don't mean to say that "chemical joy" is wicked, or that you can't have chemical joy and real joy at the same time. God gave us emotions! We are stuck with them, so we might as well enjoy them in every clean and pure avenue that we can. The only problem is, our sinful nature has so corrupted our chemical emotions that often times the only things that stimulate our chemical emotions are wicked things. Then we have a problem!

The nice thing is, the closer we get the the Savior, the less effect our sinful nature will have on our chemical emotions. (Though it never loses its influence entirely, I'm afraid!) That means that we can learn to take "chemical" pleasure in things that also bring us real pleasure. It means that instead of getting excited only about ice cream, movies, and new clothes, we will find ourselves truly chemically excited about time spent in prayer, listening to the gospel being preached, time spent in God's Word, and godly fellowship with the saints.

But, you see, chemicals are always flighty, so we cannot depend on them alone. We must also have that deep abiding joy and excitement in Christ that will remain on the days our enjoyable emotions have flown our the window and our ugly ones are fighting to have rein in us.

Because our emotions should NOT control the way we act.

There is a terrible lie I once believed. It's been told to our entire world, and we've swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. We have been taught that we must follow our dreams, fulfill our emotional desires, and do whatever it takes to have chemical satisfaction.

How did it come to this?

On the surface, that lie sounds right, and good. "Follow your dreams" ...that's been said so often, and posted so many places, that one would almost think it was a Bible verse. But it isn't. Nowhere did God tell us in His word that just because we really, really, really want to do something means we should devote our lives to doing it.

Guess what? I really, really, really, want to be an actress, movie director, camera woman, producer, or something like that. I love drama. I'm not attracted to the sinful lifestyle of so many Hollywood actresses, but the profession and work itself holds a great appeal to me, and I've always wanted to be in it. Christian film making is fascinating to me. I want to get involved.

I once believed that just because I had that dream, I must fulfill it. Then it dawned on me to question this belief.

Why must I do something just because I want to do it?

That seemed revolutionary to me.

We're brainwashed into thinking that if we don't fulfill a deep desire, we are going to be miserable for the rest of our lives. Something about the concept of a "dream" makes us think of our dreams as almost holy, impossible to be tampered with, and above question.

But what if our dreams conflict with the will of God for our lives? (Like it does in my case. I'm pretty sure He has other things for me to do, and I can't take the energy and time He gave me for those things, and pour it into Christian film making when He hasn't called me to do it.)

OH NOOOOOOoooooo! (Insert wailing here)

It is possible, you know. Our dreams may have been put into us by God Himself, and He may plan to use those dreams for great things....but it's also just as possible that our dreams stem from fleshly desires, and are in direct conflict with the direction He wants us to go.

The only way to find out which our dreams are, is to ask Him.

But what if He says "NO"?!?!?!?!? Our lives will be ruined! We'll spend the rest of our days existing as a miserable unfulfilled person, who has lost her only chance for happiness and fulfillment.

You've been reading too many novels or seeing too many movies. :) :) :) :)

Why is it we can't cope with the idea of giving up our own plans? I think it's because we look at it as exchanging something precious to us for something we don't care for as much; the will of God. If we treasured and valued the plan of God for our lives as much as we should, we'd give up anything to have it - despite how backwards that sounds to our world.

But very often we don't even think about putting ourselves through temporary pain in order to obtain an eternal pleasure. We are taught everything opposite that. We are taught to give up everything for our dreams, not everything for Christ.

We should have dreams. We should have big desires. We should beg God to use us (and make us clean enough to be used), in a big way. But let's not just assume that because we have a dream it's what God's plan for our life consists of. Life is too important to make assumptions like that.


Sarah said...

This was something that I needed to hear, Amber . . . thank you for sharing it!

Alethea Jordan said...

This is a good, thought-provoking post.

Ruth Ann said...

Amber, this was timely and thought-provoking.

Thank you. =)

Ruth Ann