There are many things that make us happy: food, sports, getting gifts from a special someone, listening to favorite song, but few things bring us more joy than having close relationships with those around us and, most importantly, with God.
The Bay Area is all about the pursuit of happiness. People and professionals in the area are leaders in innovation and creation, yet true happiness seems to be elusive, as the Bay Area has previously been ranked #1 for regular drug use according to an article written in USA Today in 2007.
It’s amazing to see how many people are in the pursuit of happiness yet can pursue everything else except God. There are many who claim to be Christians yet are more unhappy than those who don’t claim to be… Why? Because when God is not real, intimate, or personal, he becomes just a set of rules to follow.
When I was in my prime, God’s friendship was felt in my home. The Almighty was still with me, and my children were around me.
Job 29:4-5 NLT
One place happiness starts is as home. Do you value your connections with your family members or do they take a backseat to your ambitions, desires, or other pursuits?
Too often we can let bitterness and past hurt define our relationships with our family. We choose to isolate and disconnect rather than work through the feeling and disappointments to find ways to reconnect and mend broken bridges. If you ignore your relationship with your family, there will always be something missing and you will miss out on the joy that comes from having intimacy at home.
Life also has a way to try and steal our joy and it mostly comes in the form of stress. Let’s look at 2 ways that a relationship with God can help us find joy during times of stress.
Pressure Points: Understanding Your Need for God
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV
Too often we can look at pressure in a negative way. When pressure hits, we can feel bitter, respond in anger, and turn to things to try and alleviate the stress (substance abuse, pornography, watching hours of movies, etc.) but not be conscious of the truth that stress and pressure expose our need for God. Every time we don’t turn to God and run to substitutes to deal with stress, we end up distancing ourselves form our spouses, our friends and family, and ultimately God.
Pressure points reveal to us who we really are on the inside, how strong our character is, and tests our internal strength. Instead of responding negatively to stress, see it as an opportunity to grow spiritually and relationally! Ask yourself a few questions:
- Who are my closest friends?
- When are the times when I feel the most stress?
- How often do I turn to God and friends when I’m feeling pressure?
Once you are aware of the situations that make you feel stress and who your friends are, make a decision to connect with them and God when you start to feel it coming. Take 10 extra minutes to go pray through it, then call your friends and ask for their help. You will not only feel closer to God and your friends, but will feel a sense of relief and comfort knowing that you have people around you who can help in the time of need.
Intimacy Through The Struggle
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
God is closest to us when we are fighting to stay spiritual through the struggle! Make a decision today that when you feel the pressure of life closing in on you, see it as an opportunity for growth and to develop intimacy in you relationship with God and others.