I’ve been learning a lot about joy. And I’ve also learned a lot about happiness. Not because I’ve been full of joy and happiness for the past year, but because I haven’t. This past year and a half have been, well, a challenge. My freshman and sophomore years were good years. I have many good memories of times with friends and great memories of times with God. I have by no means suffered as many others have, and I don’t want to sound like I’m competing for the hardest life award, because I’m not. I am not living below the poverty line as many are, and I have more than I need. I live in America, where we spend 5x more on lunch than most of the world has to live on for a full day. I find it kind of funny, that though we are rich compared to the rest of the world, we are poor in one specific area: joy.
I firmly believe there is a HUGE difference between joy and happiness. I think that happiness is worldly. I’m not saying that God does not want us to be happy, nor am I saying that it is a sin to be happy. But happy is such an empty word. People throw around the phrase “this makes me happy” towards pictures of dogs dressed up or to an instagram of the dessert they just made. They say that happiness can’t be bought, but I think it can. If I find a sweater that is very soft, buying it would make me happy. If I want a milkshake, I would buy it and I would have a content look on my face; someone might even say, “Tessa’s happy”. Happy is a yuppie word. Yuppie, by definition, means a young, ambitious, and well-educated city-dweller who has a professional career and an affluent lifestyle. Honestly, many dream for that. They work hard and aspire to have that type of lifestyle. If you went to a reunion of any kind, and found out that someone had made it big in the professional world, had a big house, and a nice car, you would think that they have a pretty great life right? Happiness ranges from congratulating people on their marriage (eg. I’m so happy for you guys!) to drinking a milkshake.
Not only is happiness worldly, it’s short lived. And most of the time, I don’t find myself happy. You might consider me to be a pretty happy person, but that’s only on the surface level for the most part. I’ve been depressed and inwardly I’m fighting. But I don’t want to fight for happiness, I want to fight for joy.
Joy, on the other hand, is from God. It’s commanded by God. It glorifies God. (See Galatians 5:22,John 16:24,Psalm 90:14,and 1 Thessalonians 5:16) Joy is a deep, durable delight in God that ruins you for anything else. Everything becomes sour. It ruins your taste buds for all other pursuits of pleasure. Joy is eternal.(Psalm 16:11) We glorify God the most when we find our joy and our delight in Him.
Joy and happiness are not a package, you don’t need one for the other, though you can have both at once. I do not think we can ask for happiness without being selfish about it, but I do believe we can ask for joy. God desires for us to delight in Him. He wants us to want Him more and He created us to glorify Him. If we are to glorify God, and we do that best by delighting and finding joy in Him, then it is paramount that we fight for joy.
I started by saying that life has been rough lately. I find myself with more and more challenges with each passing day. This has been a season of loss, grief and trials. And I remember once saying, “Where is my joy? Why is God taking from me my joy?” Oh how wrong I was. What I was really saying was, “Where is my happiness? Why has God made my life hard and why am I not happy?” I was finding my happiness in things that are easy. Joy comes through suffering and trails and pain. It certainly came that way for Jesus. (See Hebrews 12:2)
No, I have not mastered the continuous joy that Jesus offers us, but I have learned that even when life is really really hard, you can find joy. Because joy is from God, and joy offers us what the world can’t: hope. We find our joy in the great hope of one day seeing Jesus clearly, face to face. Our fight for joy is a fight to see Christ more clearly. Jesus tells us in John 15:11 that he speaks these things that our joy may be in him and may be full or complete. The things he is speaking is oneness with the Father as He has experienced.
Oswald Chambers writes this on joy in his “My Utmost for His Highest“:
What was the joy that Jesus had? Joy should not be confused with happiness. In fact, it is an insult to Jesus Christ to use the word happiness in connection with Him. The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father— the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do— “. . . who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross . . .” (Hebrews 12:2). “I delight to do Your will, O my God . . .” (Psalm 40:8). Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same joy as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?
Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in bodily health, in circumstances, nor even in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the same fellowship and oneness with Him that Jesus Himself enjoyed. But the first thing that will hinder this joy is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances. Jesus said, “. . . the cares of this world, . . . choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). And before we even realize what has happened, we are caught up in our cares. All that God has done for us is merely the threshold— He wants us to come to the place where we will be His witnesses and proclaim who Jesus is.
Have the right relationship with God, finding your joy there, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Be a fountain through which Jesus can pour His “living water.” Stop being hypocritical and proud, aware only of yourself, and live “your life . . . hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). A person who has the right relationship with God lives a life as natural as breathing wherever he goes. The lives that have been the greatest blessing to you are the lives of those people who themselves were unaware of having been a blessing.
Joy from the Father is available, partake in it!