Joy > Happiness

What is joy to you? Before you read any further, I want you to meditate on this question: What is joy? I want you to write your answer down—or make mental note, or type in your phone. Once you’ve answered it, read on…

What is joy?

Quite often we get caught up in what makes us “happy,” that we forget about joy. Sometimes, we chase after that one thing that we “know” will make us happy. Whether it’s that relationship, that job, that car, that body… the list goes on. But once we get that one thing we so badly wanted, it turns out it’s not as great as we expected—well maybe it is at first, but after a while the happiness wears off. Then we move on to the next best thing we “know” will make us happy, and we’re caught in a vicious cycle of chasing one unfulfilling thing after another. But by the time you’re eighty, and looking back over your life, do you think you’ll happy and content? Or, will you start to realize that you only lived for the future and never the moment?

Will you start to realize that you only lived for the future and never the moment?

But what is the difference between happiness and joy? This is an important lesson for every human on this earth—and it will greatly help your outlook on success—as it has helped me. Simply put, happiness is a state, or destination of good things or good seasons. What I’ve noticed as well, is, that we brainwash ourselves to believe happiness is perfection. But joy is different. Joy is something that affects your attitude, whether you’re in a good or bad season. Christ calls us to have joy in the Bible—many times in fact—in hard times just as much as in good times.

Joy is different.

In James chapter 1 it says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” God does not say that we will be content and happy by believing in Him. He knows it will be tough. Jesus himself experienced it on the cross—and he too struggled, but still chose joy. As it says in Hebrews chapter 12 (one of my favorite passages), “… Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus found joy in dying for us… Wow. I don’t know about you, but if I were dying for a people who ridiculed and hated me, I would definitely not be choosing joy. But Jesus was different. He was perfect. He was joy.

He too struggled, but still chose joy.

Finding joy (especially in rough times) can be difficult—to say the least—and may even seem impossible. But isn’t it said, “That with God, all things are possible”? I struggle choosing joy—a lot. But I recently heard something that changed my perspective on joy. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, and this one podcast in particular I listened to, spoke on (you guessed it) joy. The speaker gave an example of an elderly woman in her church. This woman was the most joyous woman she had ever met, and the speaker inquired as to how she found joy. When asked this, the elderly woman said that whenever she was angry or upset, she would go out and serve. Just serve: meeting and serving hurting people where they’re at—whether it’s the homeless or someone who just needed a listening ear. And every time she’d come back, she was filled with the utmost joy, and her menial problems seemed to melt away. This woman found that joy came though serving for the Kingdom—like Jesus did—whether she felt like it or not. Philippians chapter 4 puts it simply: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice!” These words of exhortation were so needed by the Philippians, that Paul had to say it twice. This definitely emphasizes its importance!

She found joy in serving for the Kingdom—like Jesus did—whether she felt like it or not.

This concept of “joy over happiness” is very simply laid out by God, and yet so hard for us to understand—and even more hard to practice. Everyone in this world is in the pursuit of happiness, but few are in the pursuit of joy. But God doesn’t require us to be perfect in choosing joy; He simply wants us to us to look to Him for joy. Colossians chapter 1 says this: “…That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthen with all might according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Everyone in this world is in the pursuit of happiness, but few are in the pursuit of joy.

We don’t have the strength to choose joy all the time. But we do have a loving God who is waiting for us with open arms to give us joy in abundance. We just have to choose: temporary happiness, or joy from the everlasting Father?

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