How To Have Lifetime Joy

“fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Philippians 2:2  

Like many who believe in the sovereignty of God, I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe in divine providence. Take yesterday as an example. I had just finished writing a devotional I titled, “How To Win At Life” and then saw an email that offered advice on “How To”… and it immediately caught my attention as I believed God was leading me to read it. The email began, “This 75-Year Harvard Study Shows, ‘How To Have Lifetime Joy’” which I could not pass up for the obvious reason. Like most people breathing I too want lifetime joy and yet I was curious to know if the study concluded something other than God’s love as its basis. Galatians 5:22-23 states plainly, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” In other words the bible says joy is a relational byproduct.

The article stated that for 75 years the study focused on the physical and emotional health of two groups. The first group was made up of 456 poor people from 1939 to 2014 and the other group of Harvard graduates from 1939-1944. And after 75 years of study you might be surprised that Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development concluded, “good relationships keep us happier and healthier, period.” Melanie Curtin added, “The biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfillment overall in life is, basically, love.” I couldn’t have said it any better than Melanie, Her words brought to mind 1 John 4:8 which reminds us, “God is love” and the by product of being connected to Jesus in relationship produces in us, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

God is into “transformational relationships” which maybe better stated by basketball coaching legend John Wooden who said, “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.”  Maybe that is why John 3:16 is the most widely known bible passage in the world for in it we read of the greatest expression of giving in love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The article continued on, “The most loving and deep relationships are built on a very simple foundation: giving and gratitude. When the focus is on what you can give, rather than what you can get, the relationship becomes a gift to both of you.” Wow! Why is it I get this feeling someone assisting in doing this 75 year Harvard study was familiar with the Word of God? When we focus on what we can give and not what we can get the article stated, “there is no holding back, no keeping score.” Wait a second, isn’t that what the apostle Paul penned in 1 Corinthians 13 of the Bible, the “love chapter” that is quoted in more weddings than I could even count, Christian and otherwise, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

The more I read the article the more appreciative I am for Jesus and what His life does for you and me. The author continued, “Only in such relationships (loving-giving) can you be fully present to the moment and fully un-inhibited in the expression of your love.” Because of God’s amazing and unfailing love we are free to let go and let God. God can and must be trusted with our hearts, loved one, because He not only understands us better than anyone, He created us to begin with! In love God created us with free will and we misused it and in doing so sinned against Him causing our relationship with our Creator to be broke off. This is why God sent us Jesus, to make a way home, to restore us back to fellowship with our Heavenly Father, to make having a new relationship with God possible. Thats what love does, thats the distance love will go.

Brad Pitt once provided the most beautiful evidence of the science of gratitude and giving in a letter he wrote about his wife at the time Angelina Jolie. It’s important to note his forgetfulness does’nt diminish the fact that his actions provided beautiful evidence of the science of gratitude and giving. He wrote, “My wife got sick. She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and problems with children. She had lost 30 pounds and weighed about 90 pounds in her 35 years. She got very skinny, and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman. She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs. She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the morning and got tired very quickly during the day.

Our relationship was on the verge of break up. Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself. She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. I lost hope and thought that we’ll get divorced soon…But then I decided to act on it. After all I’ve got the most beautiful woman on the earth… I began to pamper her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised her and pleased her every minute. I gave her lots of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends. You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became even better than before. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and she loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much. And then I realized one thing: The woman is the reflection of her man. If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it.”

Where Brad Pitt and many others before and after him have failed, Jesus has not. Jesus loves us with perfect love, a love that seeks the best for us. the Bible has a word for it, it is called grace. Grace has been described as, “undeserved and unmerited favor” yet I prefer a simpler more vivid picture the words, “One way love” create in my minds eye. What Brad Pitt was showing his wife was grace, one way love you might say and it worked, not like a science project but on a real messed up broken human heart.

I like what the article went on to say, “Giving freely without an expectation of return is essential. As are expressions of gratitude. In fact, this study found that expressions of gratitude have a powerful effect on the other person. Specifically, this study found regular expressions of gratitude can: Increase a person’s self-worth. Increase a person’s self-efficacy (confidence). Increase a person’s prosocial behavior (in other words, when you’re grateful to someone, they become a better person to society at large). Increase ability to cope with life’s challenges. It worked for Angelina Jolie.

The article ended with some keen insight that echoes many of the teachings of Jesus, “The deeper and more transformative your daily experiences, the more perspective you’ll have into what the world needs. The better you’ll be at your job. The happier you’ll be as a person — despite experiencing hardships throughout life. When you have people around you who love and help you, you become a different and better person.” Now it makes more sense why Jesus would say, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” and later in the same chapter Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:15, 34-35).

It might have taken Harvard 75 years to discover what the Bible has said all along regarding joy but I for one am blessed they cared enough to want to study the topic in the first place as to how each of us might enjoy it for a lifetime.  It’s science but it’s not rocket science. To the degree by which we enjoy Jesus it will be equal to the joy we experience in this life. They go hand in hand. If you want more joy, joy that lasts a lifetime make it your aim each and every day to love freely, to serve unselfishly, and forgive completely, all the while appreciating openly and with an attitude of gratitude.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11


Michael Osthimer





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