Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective

Malankara World Journal
Penta Centum Souvenir Edition
Volume 8 No. 500 October 14, 2018


Chapter - 17: Joy

How to Have Unshakeable Joy Like Paul by Dr. Matthew Harmon

If we pursue joy in our circumstances, we are guaranteed a life of disappointment. But when we seek joy in Christ, what he has done for us, and the progress of the gospel, we can experience unshakable joy. ...

Joy Versus Happiness by John MacArthur

Happiness is related to circumstances; joy is a gift from God. ...

How to Experience Joy in Any Circumstance

Don't stuff your emotions. Let them out in a healthy way among people your trust. When you do, you'll put yourself on the path to experiencing joy in all circumstances! ...

How to Lose Your Joy by John MacArthur

True joy is God's gift to every believer, yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? ...

Joy Cometh in the Morning by David J. Stewart

Life is filled with problems; some we create for ourselves, some our loved one's create for us, and others which are completely beyond our control. These are ALL "trials" which TEST our faith. ...

Psalm 30:5 - Joy Comes in the Morning by Debra Aiken

Throughout the bible we see where the faith of God's people were tested in their midnight experiences. We also see their “JOY” on the morning after...

Seven Ways to Cultivate Joy by Charles R. Swindoll

Want more joy in your day? Cultivate it! Joy springs from viewing the day's events from eternity's perspective. ...

10 Experiences That Can Make You Happy by Mark Ford

Experiences provide more happiness than material goods. ...

Chapter - 17: Joy

How to Have Unshakeable Joy Like Paul

by Dr. Matthew Harmon

For many of us, life is hard. Our daily circumstances seem to conspire to rob us of our joy. Maybe you're stuck in a job that you do not like and doesn't pay enough to cover your bills. Maybe you're in a difficult marriage or have a strained relationship with a family member. Maybe you're trying to follow Jesus, but the people around you make fun of you for being so "religious." Or maybe you're struggling with a health problem that makes it difficult to do even the most basic everyday activities.

In the midst of these realities, experiencing constant, deep, and long lasting joy can seem unattainable. But the Bible repeatedly talks about experiencing a kind of joy that transcends our circumstances. Jesus told his disciples that he wanted them to experience the fullness of his joy in their lives (John 14:11; 16:24; 17:13). The apostle Paul calls believers to "Rejoice always" (1 Thes 5:16). But how is that possible?

Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians that is saturated with joy. Sixteen times in just four chapters Paul uses words like rejoice or joy to describe what our state of mind or general attitude should be as Christians. And he writes this joy-soaked letter in the midst of his own difficult circumstances. He was under house arrest in Rome, living in a rented apartment (at his own expense!) chained to a different Roman soldier every few hours. This on top of the three years he had spent in prison in Caesarea. So by the time he wrote to the Philippians, he had been in Roman custody for several years. Yet rather than allow his circumstances to drive him to despair, he experienced deep joy and pleaded with the Philippians to share in his joy.

So what was Paul's secret to unshakable joy? From his letter to the Philippians, Paul teaches us two key truths about unshakable joy.

First, unshakable joy is rooted in Christ and what he has done for us. After reminding the Philippians of just some of the blessings they experience through the gospel (2:1), Paul asks the Philippians to complete his joy by living in a way that reflects the mindset of Christ Jesus himself (2:2-5). He then describes how that mindset was embodied (2:6-11). Even though he was fully God, Christ set aside the glories of heaven to become a servant by taking on human flesh and living among us (2:6-7). He lived the life of perfect obedience that we could never live and willingly gave his life on the cross for our sins (2:8). Therefore God exalted him so highly that Jesus has been given the name above all names, and there will come a day when all creation recognizes Jesus Christ as the sovereign Lord and rightful King of the universe (2:9-11).

As if living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died wasn't enough, Jesus Christ made us citizens of his heavenly kingdom (3:20). So even though we live in this world with all its difficulties, sorrows, and heartbreaks, a day is coming when Christ will return for his people and transform us so that we will be perfect reflections of him (3:21). God will usher in a new heavens and new earth for us to dwell in, where there will be no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain, no more curse (Rev 21:1-8)

What a Savior we have! No wonder, then, that Paul instructs believers to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (4:4; see 3:1 also). When we focus our minds on the beauty and glory of who Jesus is and what he has done for us, God stirs our hearts with a joy that transcends our circumstances. Our circumstances change constantly, but "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8). So when we seek to find our joy in him, we will never be disappointed, because unlike our circumstances Jesus Christ never changes.

Second, unshakable joy is rooted in the progress of the gospel. Even though Paul was in chains, the gospel was not. The fact that other believers began to share the gospel with others even more actively because of his imprisonment brought Paul great joy (1:12-18). He wants to continue his ministry among the Philippians to watch them grow in their joy in Christ (1:25). He joyfully offers his life as a sacrifice to God so that others grow in their faith in Christ (2:17-18). He asks that those who work to advance the gospel be shown honor and received with all joy (2:28-29). Even Paul's joy over the Philippians' financial gift is grounded in the fact that it enables him to continue advancing the gospel (4:10-18).

No matter what our circumstances, we can find joy in what God is doing to advance his purposes in this world. Even if it is difficult for us to see evidence that God is working around us, we know from Scripture that God is working out his purposes all around the world to advance the gospel. God has promised that he is at work so that one day "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9). Since that purpose will never change, we can find unshakable joy in the progress of the gospel.


If we pursue joy in our circumstances, we are guaranteed a life of disappointment. But when we seek joy in Christ, what he has done for us, and the progress of the gospel, we can experience unshakable joy. Here are two practical steps we can take to do this.

First, read, reflect on, memorize, and study passages that portray the beauty of Christ and what he has done for us. Besides the passages from Philippians mentioned above, here are some good ones to start with: John 6:1-71; Acts 2:14-41; 3:11-26; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 2:1-10; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:1-14; 1 Pet 2:4-10; Rev 4:1-5:14.

Stay informed on how God is at work (both locally and globally). Today it is easier than ever to find out what God is doing in the world. In addition to being involved in your local church, there are a number of sites that regularly share what God is doing around the world such as Wycliffe, Voice of the Martyrs, The Joshua Project, and Open Doors USA.

At the end of the day the choice is yours. Will you seek joy in the circumstances of your life, or experience the unshakable joy that Christ offers you?

About The Author:

Dr. Matthew Harmon is Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. His recent book, Philippians: A Mentor Commentary (Christian Focus, 2015) was recognized in The Gospel Coalition’s Top Books of 2015 as the winning book in the Bible and Theology category. Dr. Harmon’s writing has also been published on and

Source: Daily Update

Joy Versus Happiness

by John MacArthur

"Rejoice in the Lord" (Phil. 3:1).

Happiness is related to circumstances; joy is a gift from God.

Not long ago it was common to see bumper stickers proclaiming every conceivable source for happiness. One said, "Happiness is being married." Another countered, "Happiness is being single." One cynical sticker read, "Happiness is impossible!"

For most people happiness is possible but it's also fickle, shallow, and fleeting. As the word itself implies, happiness is associated with happenings, happenstance, luck, and fortune. If circumstances are favorable, you're happy. If not, you're unhappy.

Christian joy, however, is directly related to God and is the firm confidence that all is well, regardless of your circumstances.

In Philippians 3:1 Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord" (emphasis added). The Lord is both the source and object of Christian joy. Knowing Him brings joy that transcends temporal circumstances. Obeying Him brings peace and assurance.

Joy is God's gift to every believer. It is the fruit that His Spirit produces within you (Gal. 5:22) from the moment you receive the gospel (John 15:11). It increases as you study and obey God's Word (1 John 1:4).

Even severe trials needn't rob your joy. James 1:2 says you should be joyful when you encounter various trials because trials produce spiritual endurance and maturity. They also prove that your faith is genuine, and a proven faith is the source of great joy (1 Pet. 1:6-8).

You live in a world corrupted by sin. But your hope is in a living God, not a dying world. He is able to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 24). That's your assurance of future glory and eternal joy! Until that time, don't neglect His Word, despise trials, or lose sight of your eternal reward. They are key ingredients of your present joy.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for any difficult circumstances you might be facing. Ask Him for continued grace to see them through His perspective and not lose heart (Gal. 6:9). Be aware of any sinful attitudes or actions on your part that might diminish your joy. Confess them immediately. For Further Study

Read Acts 16:11-40.

What difficulties did Paul and Silas face in founding the Philippian church? How did God use their difficulties for His glory?

Source: Grace to

How to Experience Joy in Any Circumstance

by Senior Living Ministries

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
- Galatians 6:2

In 1858, the Illinois State Legislature used an obscure statute to send Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of the winner of the election, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was obviously devastated, and was asked by a sympathetic friend to put his feelings into words.

"I feel like the boy who stubbed his toe," Lincoln remarked. "I'm too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh."

Emotional pain can be crippling. And oftentimes, our first instinct is to suppress our emotions and go about our day as if nothing has happened. Then one day turns into another, until eventually that same pain has become suppressed for so long that it roots itself deeply into your mind and creates mistrust, bitterness, and ultimately, robs you of the joy God wants you to have.

The answer to emotional pain is to instead find an outlet for it. That doesn't mean unleashing your emotions in a tirade of tears and anger. No, it means finding a healthy way to express your emotions, processing them with a trusted friend by opening up and allowing them to bear your burdens with you.

Don't stuff your emotions. Let them out in a healthy way among people your trust. When you do, you'll put yourself on the path to experiencing joy in all circumstances!

Prayer Challenge

Pray that God would give you wisdom in letting your emotions go at the right time, place, and with the right people.

Questions for Thought

Why do you believe many people would rather stuff their emotions down than let them out in a healthy way?

What emotions are you processing today that you can let out so you can experience greater joy?

How to Lose Your Joy

by John MacArthur

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am"
(Phil. 4:11).

Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.

True joy is God's gift to every believer, yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons: willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.

Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. It has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They've lost their perspective on God's sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.

In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We're into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.

Amid all that, Paul's words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.

Don't be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God's blessings for what they are and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances. Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 18:1—19:8.

How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal? How did he deal with Jezebel's threat? What caused Elijah's shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?

Source: Grace To

Joy Cometh in the Morning

by David J. Stewart

"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
- Psalm 30:5

"Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."
-Psalm 55:22

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
-Romans 8:28

Life is filled with problems; some we create for ourselves, some our loved one's create for us, and others which are completely beyond our control. These are ALL "trials" which TEST our faith.

Anyone can have faith in God during fair weather; BUT, the true TEST of our faith is how we respond during stormy weather, when we can't see our hand in front of our face. Most Christians have a very weak faith, a shallow faith, a temporary faith; which when the winds of tempest arise, they quit and behave no better than the heathen.

Christ should be our example during our times of pain, mental anguish and suffering. I know the overwhelming feeling of mental anguish. There's been times in my life when I'd wished I'd never been born. Ah, but God promised in Psalm 30:5 that weeping only endureth for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

I know what it's like to suffer overwhelming, emotional, pain. I know what it's like to wake up from a nightmare to a bigger nightmare, unable to do anything about the situation. There have been many times in my life, when every second seemed like an hour, and every hour like a day, and every day like a never ending eternity. At those times, the only friend I had in the world was the Bible.

I have learned during these times that we need to keep our eyes on the Lord. Do you think God is pleased by our faith only during the good times? What about one's faith during the storms of life? A faith must be tested.

The Word of God says in Psalm 30:5, "...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." There is always Light at the end of the tunnel for a Christian. God will one day wipe away all tears, and there will be no more pain (Revelation 21:4). What a day that will be! Only Jesus Christ can make everything right, when life seems so wrong.

Perhaps you feel that nothing you could ever do can make things right in your life. May I say, friend, that is why Jesus came into the world, i.e., to make things right for us, because we cannot. Jesus came to make everything right through His blood sacrifice. Thanks be to God, Jesus has paid our sin debt, to set us free from the enslavement of sin (John 8:32-36). Jesus Christ has set the believer free from the curse of the Law. Amen! This earthly life will soon be o'er and we will be on Heaven's golden shore.

Romans 8:28

We are PROMISED in Romans 8:28 that ALL THINGS will " together for good..." for every born again Christian. God says in Verse 30 that he has "called" everyone whom He has predestinated. It is very important to notice in Verse 29 what God has predestinated every believer to, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..." God never predestinates (chooses) anyone to salvation. Rather, He simply knows in advance who is going to be saved, and predestinates those believers to be conformed to Christ's perfect image.

God had our future planned out BEFORE we were ever conceived in the womb. Jesus said in Matthew 25:34, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." What a beautiful Scripture! We can't see the end result of our life; BUT, God can.

The future is uncharted waters. Praise Jesus, He KNOWS what our future holds, which is why we should trust God, doing our best to live for Him. One way or another, God will work everything together for good.

Carefully notice in Romans 8:28 that the Bible doesn't say everything good will happen. No, God promises us that everything will ultimately WORK TOGETHER for good. No one would want to eat baking powder, sugar, eggs, flour, or salt raw; but when you put all those ingredients together you get a delicious cake. Likewise, all of the tragedies and bad experiences in our life WILL work together for good if we believe on Jesus, the Christ.

I am often reminded of the words in the song, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" which states, "Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bare, because we do not take it to the Lord in prayer.

"Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:22).

We read the same beautiful promise in 1st Peter 5:7, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."

The Book of Esther in the Bible teaches a wondrous truth. Amazingly, God is not mentioned even once in the entire Book. Yet, we see God's sovereignty and work throughout the entire Book. The lesson is simple—When you can't see the hand of God, trust the heart of God. Please read the Book of Esther and you will be encouraged that God works in MYSTERIOUS ways. That is, mysterious to us, because we often don't understand; but God certainly knows what He is doing. I am going to trust Him. God knows the way. All we need to do is follow.

My mother used to often say ... "God always works in mysterious ways." She was right. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

Oh, listen friend, joy ALWAYS comes in the morning for the Christian, when the Lord will make everything right; but we must TRUST the Lord and cast our cares upon Him continually, being patient, preaching the Gospel and believing His Word. Jesus commanded in John 5:39, "SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES!"

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
-1st Peter 1:7

Source: Jesus is Savior Blog

Psalm 30:5 - Joy Comes in the Morning

by Debra Aiken

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

As painful as the test and trials of life may seem at times, our faith must be tested. Anyone can have faith when we are in our mountain top experiences, but the true test of faith is when we are in our midnight hour.

A new morning brings another opportunity to get it right with God!! A new morning!!! Lamentations 3:22-23 declares-It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Oh, what great comfort is being offered by God this morning to those who made it through to Morning.

Throughout the bible we see where the faith of God's people were tested in their midnight experiences. We also see their “JOY” on the morning after.

I think we all need a constant reminder of who our God is and what He is well able to do in times of hurt, pain and despair. We must know without a doubt that when our days of suffering and pains seems endless, God is there. God is Faithful and He will fulfill His promises.

2 Timothy 3:12 declares–Yea and all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. In other words, we will go through test and trials in life.

James 1:2-3 says -My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

2 Corinthians 4:17-For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Romans 8:18– I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

PSALM 30:5 boldly declares on today that -For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Remember, There is always a morning after midnight. ”



Be encouraged, keep the faith, keep believing, keep trusting, keep praying, keep witnessing, even in the midst of suffering and watch God!!! He will never fail you!!! JOY WILL COME IN THE MORNING!!!!



Source: tellgodthankyou Blog

Seven Ways to Cultivate Joy

by Charles R. Swindoll

Want more joy in your day? Cultivate it! Joy springs from viewing the day's events from eternity's perspective. With this intentional focus, you're sure to see today differently - with more joy and conviction that God is at work in your life.

1. Rehearse with God the reasons you trust Him. Tell Him which of His attributes is your favorite right now. Read the praises of Scripture back to Him - begin with Psalm 103. Join with another believer in prayers of thanksgiving, and delight yourself in His character.

2. Keep a "joy journal." Record the reasons you have to rejoice and the reminders of God's faithfulness that you encounter in your everyday life. In addition, why not press a leaf from your prayer walks into its pages or include a photo of a person that brings you joy each time you remember him or her? Think big - expand your journal into a "joy box" or a "joy drawer" that brings floods of joy each time you open it.

3. Surround yourself with joyful people. Joy is contagious - so build relationships with friends whose lives exhibit their confidence in God. Pray for each other that your joy in Christ would continue to increase.

4. Approach life's challenges and trials redemptively. God doesn't waste the difficult circumstances of your life but uses them to develop His character in you. Review Romans 5 and James 1 for help in processing pressure productively. Joy will sneak up on you when you view your hardest lessons as gifts from God.

5. Make praise and gratitude a habit. Has God met a need? Praise Him! Have your challenges given you greater opportunities to see Him work? Thank Him! Joy flows from a grateful and responsive heart. Before you turn in at night, write down three to five blessings in your "joy journal." Make it a habit, and watch your joyful attitude grow.

6. Fill your mind with music. Listen to, sing, and meditate on music that draws your heart nearer to God and His Word.

7. Take the long view. Investors advise their clients not to worry about the daily ups and downs of the stock market - what matters is the long view. Does life present incredible challenges today? Are your reserves at a low, or are you enjoying a content plateau? Regardless of today's events, take the long view. Remember that God remains in charge of your days and will faithfully develop His character in you.

Remember, joy springs from viewing the day's events from eternity's perspective. Trust that God controls your life's details (Romans 8:28), that He hears your every request (Psalm 116:1), and that His joy will be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Adapted from "Seven Ways to Cultivate Joy," Insights (March 2001): 2. Copyright © 2001 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.

About Chuck Swindoll

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God's Word. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs in major Christian radio markets around the world, reaching people groups in languages they can understand. Chuck's extensive writing ministry has also served the body of Christ worldwide and his leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry.

Source: Insight for Living

10 Experiences That Can Make You Happy

by Mark Ford

"For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many times, the things/experiences that give us the greatest joy are free.

But oftentimes, money is involved. And when that's the case, we have to weigh the cost of the thing/experience against the pleasure we will get from it.

One example: owning a home...

In my book Automatic Wealth, I argued that one of the most important things you can do to become rich is to get off the "moving-on-up train" and be satisfied with the house you have. This conclusion was based on two observations which I'll reveal below...

First, your house - although usually the most expensive thing you will buy in your lifetime - is an imperfect investment. As the center of your family's universe, it is likely that you will spend money on it that won't provide market-level returns.

Plus, the costs associated with owning a house go well beyond the cost of the house itself. They include taxes, insurance, and upkeep (which rise in direct relationship to the cost of the house). They also include things that you would normally consider separate line items - e.g., schooling, vacations, and furniture.

By keeping the house you have and investing the money you would have spent to "move up," you will end up far richer over 10 or more years.

That is a matter of dollars and cents. But there is another reason to follow this advice - an interesting psychological fact that I recently became aware of by reading a good book titled Happy Money.

The book's authors, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, compare spending $200,000 on a house to spending the same amount of money on a flight into outer space. On the face of it, spending $200,000 on a six-minute space flight might seem crazy. And even crazier if you aren't wealthy and could have bought a house with that money.

But research, they say, suggests this is not necessarily true. "Remarkably, there is almost no evidence that buying a home - or a newer, nicer home - increases happiness."

Moreover, they argue that spending the money on the space trip would provide more long-term satisfaction.

How can that be?

"Between 1991 and 2007," Dunn and Norton tell us, "researchers tracked thousands of people in Germany who moved to a new house because there was something about their old house they didn't like. Immediately after settling into their new abodes, these movers reported being much more satisfied with their new homes than they'd been with their old ones."

As time passed, satisfaction with the new house did not diminish all that much. But what was remarkable was that the purchase of a new home did nothing at all to increase their satisfaction with their lives. "Their overall happiness didn't improve at all."

In another study, researchers found that a group of Harvard students who were lucky enough to get rooms in the dorms they wanted were no happier with their overall school experience than students who had to settle for lodging they initially didn't like.

As recently as 2011, 90% of Americans said they believed home ownership to be a "central component of the American dream." Yet in study after study, home ownership does not seem to correlate to happiness.

To understand what's going on here, Dunn and Norton suggest the following mental exercise:

Think of purchases you've made with the goal of increasing your own happiness. Consider one purchase that was a material thing, a tangible object that you could keep, like a piece of jewelry or furniture, some clothing, or a gadget.

Now think about a purchase you made that gave you a life experience - perhaps a trip, a concert, or a special meal. If you are like most people, remembering the experience brings to mind friends and family, sights and smells.

According to one study cited in the book, 57% of the participants said that the experiential purchase made them happier. Other studies show that even when people spend only a few dollars, they get more lasting pleasure from buying an experience as opposed to a thing.

Another interesting discovery that came from Dunn and Norton's research is that sometimes even an unpleasant experience can provide happiness afterward. They cite studies in which people on trips reported that they were having a less-than-enjoyable time. But when asked about the trips later, they remembered them as being good.

This makes sense to me. I have several times competed in national grappling meets. My nervousness prior to the events and the actual experience of fighting was anything but fun. But I have drawn enormous pleasure from remembering and recounting these experiences.

This was also true of the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The experience itself was excruciating. Yet I enjoy the memory of it more with each passing year.

My two years in West Africa were half pleasure and half pain. But thinking about it has provided me with a great deal of happiness over the 30 years since then.

Veterans often remember their wartime experiences nostalgically. Nostalgia turns out to be a very beneficial emotion, some scientists say. It allows us to convert difficult times into positive memories. And that helps us cope with tough times ahead.

It seems, then, that the actual pleasure you get from an experience is not the most important criterion for determining its ultimate value. The criterion seems to be one of intensity. The more challenging the experience, the more happiness it brings.

The bottom line: Experiences provide more happiness than material goods.

There are many reasons why this is so. For one thing, experiences tend to involve most, if not all, of the senses. Another reason: Experiences often bring you in contact with other people. Most importantly, perhaps, experiences - especially intense ones - tend to stay in your memory for a long time.

When Cornell University researchers asked groups of people to discuss purchases with one another, the groups that discussed experiential purchases reported enjoying their conversations more than those that talked about material goods.

Another series of studies focused on feelings about trips and vacations. Generally, people remembered having had more fun than they'd reported having during the experience itself. And the further back in time the experience was, the more happiness they remembered.

In my 30s and 40s, I had a very different view of this. I felt that money spent on vacations was largely wasted because the experience itself was finite. I thought it made much better sense to spend $10,000 on a used car or a handful of gold coins than on a family trip.

My good friend Eddie agreed with me. But his wife Barbra and my wife had a very different idea. They thought money spent on trips to Europe was a good investment. And so we went. Year after year, for more than a decade.

Looking back now, I can see that they were right. I value those trips not just for the good times I remember, but also for what I learned during our travels and (most especially) for how it deepened our mutual friendship.

For more than 20 years, K and I have sponsored a sort of extended family reunion. We call it "cousin camp." We pick a destination where about 40 of us congregate to have an adventure for several days or a week. These camps have become increasingly expensive over the years. Nowadays, each one costs us considerably more than $100,000.

My former self would have thought that it would have been smarter to invest that money in some tangible assets and perhaps divvy up those assets among those same people. But I don't feel that way. And neither, I think, do the family members who have been enjoying this experience.

Relative Values

An interesting issue not addressed in Dunn and Norton's Happy Money is this: Is there a relationship between how much you pay for an experience and how much happiness you get from it?

Since I have no studies from which to draw conclusions, I will research my memory banks instead.

Off the cuff, I think these are the 10 experiences that have given me the greatest overall happiness:

  1. Romancing my wife
  2. Having and raising our children
  3. A dozen European trips with Eddie and Barbara
  4. Poetry classes with Harriet Zinnes
  5. Learning and practicing Jiu Jitsu
  6. My two years in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer
  7. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
  8. The 20-year conversation I've been having with my friend Jeff
  9. Writing books, stories, poetry - even a few memos
  10. Teaching students, employees, conference attendees, etc.

The most expensive of these experiences were the European vacations. Each of them cost, on average, about $10,000. Next would be the trip to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro. That was about $6,000. I spent several hundred dollars per month on Jiu Jitsu lessons. Everything else on my list cost me little or nothing.

Now, if I were to make a list of the material purchases I've most enjoyed, it would include my present house, several of my cars, my art collection, and certainly my cigars. I can't say that the pleasure I've gotten from these things measures up to the pleasure I've gotten from my experiential purchases.

But when I think about them more carefully, I realize that the material purchases that gave me the greatest pleasure were much more than things to me. They were in their own way experiences.

The cars I most enjoyed, for example, were the old cars I restored and drove on special occasions. The reason I love my house so much is because it has been an ongoing project of restoration and improvements.

Likewise, art for me is not just an investment. My art collection crowds every room I live and work in. I have spent countless hours admiring those objects.

So I think the argument that Dunn and Norton make in Happy Money is a solid one. Money spent on experiences, by and large, can be well-spent if the criterion you are judging them by is how much happiness they give you during your lifetime.


What can we take from this?

First - that it is a mistake to think as I did when I was a young man. Just because experiences end doesn't mean that the pleasure they provide ends. The opposite seems to be true, at least with intense experiences. In general, they seem to provide more happiness than the purchase of material things.

Second - that the satisfaction you have with the purchase of material goods is not directly related to happiness. You may feel that the purchase of a house or boat or car was a good one, yet it might not add a drop of happiness to your life.

Third - that the amount of money you spend on an experience has nothing to do with the amount of happiness you draw from it. Many experiences that cost nothing can produce abundant, lifelong dividends.

To have a rich life, you need a rich mind. And the rich mind recognizes that spending money on things will not automatically add to its lifetime store of happiness. It prefers to spend money on experiences, recognizing that very little money needs to be spent. But it also recognizes that when money is spent on a material object, that object can bring happiness if it is used and enjoyed over time.

[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Source: ETR Copyright © 2014 Early to Rise, LLC.


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