The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Trading happiness for joy

You've likely noticed it in any bookstore: the bevy of self-help books available. Help with exercise, weight loss, finances, smoking cessation, relationships. You name it, there is a self-help book for it.

I recently read that the 2008 trend in self-help books is toward finding and sustaining happiness. What is it? How do we find it? How can we make it last? Authors are grabbing on to this idea, no doubt because they know people in our stressed-out, overstimulated, anxious, overextended world are looking for something. Happiness has to be the answer. Follow these steps and happiness — long-lasting happiness — can and will be yours.

Listening to my iPod makes me happy. A good cup of coffee makes me happy. A good book makes me very happy. A good bike ride makes me extremely happy. Spending time with people I care about brings incredible happiness.

But the happiness — the "high" — of these moments passes. Not that this feeling is bad, and not that it isn't worth having and even seeking out, but it does fade. When that happens, I find myself looking for the next thing to make me happy.

I could read one of these books I suppose, but it occurs to me that what most of us are really looking for is something called joy. Joy, at least as it's described in Scripture, isn't necessarily a jump-up-and-down or laugh-out-loud experience. Joy is a deeper, more abiding feeling. Joy comes from knowing that God has given us forgiveness, grace and eternal life in Jesus Christ. And that God is with us — in this life and the next.

Joy that springs from these gifts of God is what sustains us in times of uncertainty, fear, even grief and sorrow, and in all the everyday moments. Joy is what we experience when we know we are profoundly loved and valued by our God. Joy lasts because it enables us to look to God's promises and cling to them.

I can think of only one book that describes this, and I imagine we all have at least one copy already. May you experience Easter joy this week, and in all the days that follow.

This week's front page features

Life leaves marksLife leaves marks: Resurrection changed Jesus and, today, changes us. (Photo at right.)

Our journey after Easter: Reading guides us as we travel boldly along God-given paths.

Where's my Easter? I suffer from depression, but I have hope.

Me preach? Colorado pastor, congregation renewed by lay preachers.

Also: Eastertide.

Also: Immigration articles raise ire.

Also: Care given after NIU shooting.

Read these articles at our front page ...

Discuss "Me, preach?"

John E. Knutson Join John E. Knutson (right) to discuss how he empowered members of his congregation to preach.

Consider reading "Me preach?" before joining in.

Join the conversation ...

Worship opinions needed

Participate in an upcoming cover story in The Lutheran by responding to one or more of these questions:

1. Worship: What do congregation members want? What do worshipers need?
2. Worship in ELCA congregations varies, but essential elements remain. What are those elements for you?
3. How do we both honor traditional liturgy and make room for other worship styles?

Respond (500 words or less) via e-mail to julie.sevig@thelutheran.org by May 20.

Please include your congregation, city and state.

Or respond online ...

The human condition

Justin BaxterGuest blogger Justin Baxter (right) writes about a Holy Week service (and a painting) that communicated: "Sadness is not something we should ignore."

Baxter, a student at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., is serving an internship at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Oakland, Calif.

Read Baxter's blog ...

On our staff blog

Sonia C. Solomonson

Andrea Pohlmann asks: "How long is too long ... or too short" for a pastor's tenure. 

Julie Sevig blogs about keeping vigil for peace.

Sonia Solomonson (right) writes about what Jesus did.

Amber Leberman blogs about Holy Week in the wilderness.

Check out our blog ...

The March issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived:

The Little LutheranDon't let them miss another issue.
The Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.
Subscribe today ...

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For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

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February issue


Embracing diversity