Welcome to Welling for Your Spiritual Well-Being and Your Ministry Overflowing. Joyfy: Optimizing Trials is the name of our series. The word counter– you know, we talk about check-in counters, and check-out counters, and cashier’s booths, and worktop benches, a physical point– even larger stands and stalls at airports and events.
We come to the metaphor of counter space later on. But let’s start with count and counter. We are at the very beginning of a series from the book of James, or Jacob, when right after his greet to the family of God and Jesus– most likely those who were Jewish and dispersed all across the region– in a command form, he says, “Count it. I want you to become counters.”
Whenever you add the suffix “-er” to a verb, you get something or someone which performs an action. So there it is. A counter is someone who counts. A bank teller is a “count-er.” Unless you want to keep your cash with yourself and you take it to the bank, the teller is a counter and hope he comes to the same total deposit as you have it.
You may have also heard another expression– “bean counter.” It’s a slang term for an accountant who counts all the details of bureaucrat to try to control expenditures. And every organization needs one. On a friend’s desk in Hong Kong, Benjamin Franklin’s great statement, “A small leak will sink a great ship,” reminded me of that importance.
Now, we attach the word counting to what is quantifiable. Our six-year-old granddaughter is reviewing her math. And she counts in different languages– English, Spanish, and Mandarin. And I’ve taught her in Tamil and Hindi and all the way up to the number 10. She did 100, 200, all the way to 1,000 recently.
A quantity of life strategy is often the way we measure our well-feeling. Happiness is a quantity issue in the need of more. That’s humanity’s story– more, more, more– to find happiness, to restore broken dreams, to prevent depression, to give you something to laugh about. But even the addition or the multiplication of material things doesn’t seem like it’s going to cut it to give happiness to the human race.
We think of happiness like a partially-filled petrol gas tank. Somehow is deficient– after we fill it up, it empties out. There are many challenges with a material external quantifiable version of happiness. But let me give you one.
The quantity strategy to happiness is not supported by those who have so much. In observation reflection, I’ve seen the very wealthy be extremely unhappy, and the very poor quite happy regardless of circumstance.
But applying quantity to quality takes wisdom. I believe it is Albert Einstein who said, “Not everything counted counts, and not everything that counts should be counted.” Let’s give the bean counters a little positive meaning of “count-er.”
Whether you’re counting the right things, your trials can be quantifiable even though your joys have to be counted in those trials. Counting is treated as a quantifiable expression, but joy can be considered, regarded– that’s a qualitative word.
You can’t smell joy. You can’t taste joy. You can’t weigh joy. You can’t just count up the joy. So you can count up some thanks. But it’s a whole orbit collection of experiences. And through it, consider it all joy, it bridges the quantity and the quality without letting the air of the quality.
But here’s another meaning of the word count or counter– is to control, to rule, to lead. That you’re not just a reactor to trials, you can actually lead the way in your own trials. That’s where James commands us to count it all joy, not don’t worry, be happy. He reveals that it’s possible to be a joy counter.
As I said last time, joy is different than happiness. It is of a different order. Happiness exists with your emotions, but joy is found along your will. That’s why it’s a command. Joy to feel something way beyond well-feeling. Happiness is temporary. Joy can be sustained even eternally.
Happiness and sadness don’t go together. Joy and sadness can go together. A friend of mine actually said, “I have so much tears, but I have joy in the middle of my tears.” It’s possible.
So, trials are the opposite of happiness. But trials are not the opposite of joy. Joy is beyond happiness and can be found in spite of trials. Happiness by getting more and more– feeling better will not produce it. All that feeling is fleeting. It’s not permanent. It is less than satisfying.
There is something like happiness, but it flies away very quickly, like the tea cup in the morning where an occasional fly sits there for a moment, and just when I try to catch it to kill it, it flies away.
In Kenya, there’s a wonderful proverb which goes this way. It says, “Happiness has its seasons, but joy is the field which can be harvested at any season. Even the most difficult season, you can harvest joy.”
I said earlier, we’d come to the counter space metaphor. Trials are the counter at which joys need to be counted. To counter someone, as you know, is to get the better of someone in ideas or in a relationship. Joy counters get the best of their trials. They face them, but they rule them. They check in at the joy counter. They counter trials with joy.
Bonnie’s mother– my mother-in-love, Joyce– at 93 had come through major surgery and going through physical therapy. I talked to a few days after. And she said, “I’m in serious trouble, Ramesh.” She was gasping for breath. But said twice in that statement, “But I have the joy of the Lord. I have the joy of the Lord.”
So at the counter of trials, you can count those trials as truly quantifiable. But you can consider joy in the middle of the trials. Count– become a joy counter.