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Reflections – The source of joy in tough times

On May 6, 1934, a young minister in Charlotte, North Carolina, named Vance Havner, devoted his weekly column in the Charlotte Observer to a problem that relates to discouraged people today: how to find the source of joy in tough times.

When Havner penned his message to the people of Charlotte, the world was in the depths of The Great Depression; people were out of work, numbers of his readers had lost their homes and savings; some were hungry.  He titled his depression era column “Where is Your Joy?” And his insights are as relevant now as they were at that difficult time.

Though his church members and column readers weren’t aware of what was ahead for this young writer and pastor, Vance Havner would become one of the most widely heard and read ministers of his time.  His thirty eight books are still favorites of many because his message was always the timeless one that meets us where we are and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

Questioning why many people were joyless during those depression years may have seemed like an unneeded question.  Facing tough times now may enable us to profit from the wisdom shared by this Carolina columnist so long ago.

Young Havner concluded that many at that time felt down because they were expecting joy from the wrong sources and therefore were continually disappointed.  He saw these false hopes for happiness falling into four categories and warned against them as follows:

1.  Joy does not lie in where we are.

     “It is not a creation of circumstances.  Poor human nature persists in thinking that the next field will be greener.  A new house, a new car, a change of jobs, a trip; forever just ahead lies happiness.”

2.  Joy does not consist in how we are (how we feel).

“Feelings are as variable as April weather and a joy based upon mere emotion is at the mercy of a headache or a bad dinner.”

3.  Joy is not a matter of who we are.

“Position and prominence do not bring joy.  People seek fame in high places only to learn they were happier in obscurity.”

4.  Joy is not dependent upon what we are.

“Nicodemas, a wealthy religious leader described in the Bible who came to Jesus seeking advice and a rich young ruler, who was ruled by his possessions, were men of fine character but they still sought something deeper.  Our own goodness may bring us a sort of self-satisfaction but it never sparkles with heavenly joy.”

How can one then find joy?  If joy can’t be found in where we are, how we are, who we are or what we are, where is it to be found?  Vance Havner concluded joy is found in whose we are.

Explaining that we can belong to the Lord through faith in Christ, (Romans 5:1), Havner repeated it is in knowing whose we are that we find joy, even during tough times.

Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at rcministy@ameritech.net

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