Happiness?…or Joy

We live in a world where it seems everyone is seeking happiness. Because really? Why wouldn’t anyone want to be happy?

Society is infiltrated with phrases like “Don’t worry, be happy” or “Find your happy place” or “I just want to be happy” …and we live our lives…looking for that person, that family, that job…reaching toward that goal, that accomplishment, that lifestyle…working hard towards buying that house, that car, that thing…whatever that may be…that will ultimately satisfy us and consequently make us happy. And if we can all be honest…we have all been there. I know I have!

But have you ever found that person to marry, reached that goal, purchased that thing, etc. and still have found yourself looking for happiness or something to satisfy and fulfill you?

Not that it is wrong to want to be happy, but unfortunately, many people who are just seeking happiness will find themselves disappointed and dissatisfied.

Because even when you have achieved or received…accomplished or obtained… the very thing in life that you are hoping will make you happy, you realize your happiness is short lived and you find yourself once again saying, “I just want to be happy.”

It’s so important that we realize that happiness tends to be dependent….dependent upon happenings…dependent upon our circumstances…dependent upon other people…dependent upon our moods…dependent upon our emotions…dependent upon our station in life…dependent upon the temporal and external (what is happening outside of us).

Happiness is fleeting, short-lived, and not constant. Still just want to be happy?

At the end of this past July, well-known pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in CA preached for the first time since his son’s death, 4 months prior. His son Matthew suffered from mental illness and unfortunately committed suicide. So tragic and disheartening!

When Rick returned to the pulpit, he had his wife Kay also share some words regarding their family tragedy. And one thing she said that really stood out to me was that as they walked up to their son’s house,  knowing what had just taken place, she pulled out her necklace and showed it to her husband Rick. It said “Choose Joy”.

I mean can you even imagine! Choosing joy when you have just learned of your son’s death! That’s the last thing I would be thinking about or choosing for that matter! How about you?

Not to be facetious by any means, I would venture to say that they were not feeling happy…but because Rick and Kay have “chosen joy” through their pain, they are still giving much hope to the hopeless today.

As Christians, we can be hopeful that God will use “all things”…the good and the bad, the blessings and the pain…in our lives to work things out for good.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB

Happiness is sometimes interchanged with joy, however, as I mentioned earlier….Happiness is dependent…Joy is a choice.

According to the dictionary…

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”

Joy which comes from the word “rejoice,” is defined as “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.”

In the Bible, depending on the translation, the words “happy” and “happiness” appear about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times. Hmmm, this should make you wonder where God’s emphasis is…

So what is the difference between happiness and joy? Why should we choose joy and what does the Bible say about it?

We can certainly gain a greater understanding of why happiness is different from joy by examining the following Bible scriptures and passages.

In Genesis 30:1-13 is the story of two sisters, Rachel and Leah, and their rivalry over their husband, Jacob. Each woman tries to have more male children in order to please Jacob, even using their handmaidens to conceive more offspring. When Leah’s handmaiden, Zilpah, bore Jacob a second son…

Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher. Genesis 30:13 NIV

Thus the word “happy” comes from the Hebrew root word ashar and means “to set right or be blessed.”

We can see from this example that Leah’s happiness was dependent upon external factors…giving her husband Jacob another son.

In the book of Philippians, we can see another example…and example of an individual named Paul who, while imprisoned in Rome, teaches us the difference between happiness and joy and how to have true contentment in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances.

Paul uses the words “joy,” “rejoice,” and “joyful” 16 times in Philippians and talks about his faith and trust in Jesus Christ and how it changed his whole perspective on suffering.

The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. Philippians 1:18 NIV

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NLT

The word “joy” comes from the Hebrew root word chevdah and means “rejoicing, gladness” and also comes from the Greek root word chara and means “to be exceedingly glad, cheerfulness.”

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds… James 1:2 NIV

How could we ever consider going through difficulties and trials a reason to feel joy? How could Pastor Rick and Kay Warren “choose joy” in the midst of their tragedy and pain?

because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3-4 NIV

Joy comes as we persevere through trials, with God’s help, and it is through this perseverance that our faith matures and is strengthened.

So how is this joy possible?

When we accept Jesus Christ not only as our Savior but also our Lord (our master), we can expect this joy to permeate our life whether things are good or whether things are bad…because the Holy Spirit dwells in us and gives us joy.

Joy comes from Jesus who lives in us, not from what’s happening outside of us. Joy is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith in the Lord.

Joy is internal and constant while happiness is external and dependent upon outward circumstances. And most importantly this joy is everlasting and not fleeting or short-lived!

Again…joy is a choice…it is an attitude towards life. We can choose joy or not. God is our source of joy so we can have the strength to choose joy in the midst of our life circumstances.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

It is possible to have true, everlasting, inner joy in our hearts whatever we face in life whether it is good or bad….because ultimately God will “work all things out for good” and as Paul said, “Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”

True joy is eternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is itself an everlasting source of joy.

So it is my prayer for you and me today…Choose Joy!

Reflection Points:

1)      Are you looking for happiness today? What do you think will bring you happiness…a marriage, an accomplishment, a material object?

2)      Have you ever found that person to marry, reached that goal, purchased that thing, etc. and still have found yourself looking for happiness or something to satisfy and fulfill you?

3)      Do you want to have happiness or joy in your life? And Why?

4)      Do you know the difference between happiness and joy?

5)      Knowing the difference, would you choose joy?

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