This was my moniker when I was in high school choir. Every year at summer camp, our teen choir would compete and of course, we were expected to smile while we sang praises to God. My “smiler” was broken. Truthfully, it was not cool to smile in the choir. When we were having fun, we could smile, laugh, and carry on throughout the day, but when it came to the choir, the smiles shut down. My youth pastor called me “Coffin Boy” in order to force a smile. This disease followed me through high school into college. As a singer in college, I still struggled with smiling.
Something changed after college in the first few years of ministry. I can’t tell you when exactly, but, after a while, the smile became more natural. Although I can’t claim a certain point in time, I can tell you it was a mixture of two things: God’s Word and God’s work. Nehemiah knew about this 2,500 years ago when he challenged the people, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The people had been busy doing God’s work and they were hearing God’s Word. How do those two things bring joy?
God’s Word transforms our perception. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Jeremiah gave a personal testimony when he said, “Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). In the popular description of the Word of God in Psalm 19, you will read, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:8). If you are not possessed with an infectious joy, then check your connection to God’s Word. “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
God’s work transforms our purpose. While others in the world chase after earthly gains, the ones who choose to do God’s work saturate their soul with joy. This is not a perk only available to full-time, vocational ministry. Wherever you are and whatever your occupation may be, when you see your purpose on earth as serving your Lord and bringing honor to His name, you will find joy in what you do. Your skills are being used to bring you closer to the lost. Your experience is awarding you the opportunity to mentor and train others. Your service enables you to resemble the Perfect Servant who “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Mark 10:45). When you are doing God’s work you are aligning your purpose for life with God’s plan and the harmony brings a sweetness of joy.
Happiness is a roller coaster of ups and downs. Joy is a steady, stable energy not derived from circumstances but from connection with God. If it can revive Coffin Boy, then surely joy can transform anyone.