I said in an earlier post that I’d say something about “happiness vs. joy.” Sorry I didn’t get to it sooner. Life, you know.
I’ve heard somewhere that the word “happiness” was derived from the same root as the word “happening” … so I guess if you follow that line of reasoning, then happiness is probably based upon what’s happening. Happy things happen … and then you’re happy.
But joy is something else entirely.
And then if you’re talking about the “joy of the Lord,” then it isn’t only something different, it’s an entirely separate realm of experience. Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s ability to grow fruit in our lives isn’t dependent on happy circumstances (actually, I find it often quite the opposite).
Anyway, this “happiness vs. joy” conversation is sort of a touchy subject for me lately. I had someone in the past year or so question whether or not I was really a Christian (this was someone I’d only recently met so he didn’t have the perspective of seeing my life in anything but the context of the difficulties we were in at the time).
His reasoning went something like this:
“Joy is a fruit of the Spirit … so anyone who has the Holy Spirit within them will have joy because the fruit will just naturally grow. Since I don’t see joy in your life, you must not have the Holy Spirit. So you can’t be a Christian if you don’t have the Holy Spirit.” (To put it in context, this statement was made to me shortly after my husband’s diagnosis and while we were still dealing with my husband’s uncontrolled rages and frightening behaviors in our home … can you say, “Stressed out!”?)
Fortunately, I realized at the time that this person was confusing “joy” with “happiness.” It’s true that I wasn’t particularly happy at that moment in time in my life. But I did have joy. Joy to know that somehow, someway, somewhere God would work all this horrible stuff I was living with for good. Joy to know that even if life continued on just as badly as it was right then for the rest of my earthly life, this life isn’t the “end” of the story. I was living with that saying, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future,” running continually through my head.
The Bible says that for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. I don’t think Jesus was necessarily “happy” while He was tortured and endured a painful, cruel death. But did Jesus have joy in the midst of it all? Oh, I’m sure He did … joy to know that His sacrifice would work the Ultimate Good in humankind (allowing all of us an opportunity to find forgiveness and peace with God). Joy to know that this life isn’t all there is. Joy to have accomplished what He’d been sent to do.
When I told a pastor friend of mine what was said to me about how I probably wasn’t a Christian because I didn’t have “joy” in my life in the midst of the trials I was facing, my pastor friend said, “Oh my gosh, Debi! That person doesn’t know you AT ALL! The joy of the Lord IS your strength! Your faith and the joy that brings you is the main reason you’ve gotten through all of this as well as you have! That man is confusing happiness with joy. And they’re not the same things at all.”
Exactly. It was really nice to have someone who knows me well, offer some sane perspective in the midst of that crazy time.
So. Happiness vs. joy. I like to be happy (who doesn’t?), but I’d rather have joy any day. Joy lasts even in the midst of the trials of life. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. Joy is strength. Joy is internal. Joy is eternal.
Even though my heart is breaking … even though I’ve lost my hopes and dreams and plans and material things … I can (and do!) still have joy. There might not always be a smile on my face, but on a deeper, soul-stirring level, there’s joy in my heart; joy in my spirit.
Not the happiness of happenings.
The joy of the Lord.
Despite trying circumstances, can we trust that God is still good? Next in the series: God is Good