Happiness vs. Joy
Updated: Mar 11, 2019
This devotion was originally written June, 2012.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23
I have struggled with the difference between the two.
I have heard sayings like, "Happiness depends on your circumstances," or, "We can always have joy even in the midst of difficult circumstances."
I still couldn't wrap my mind around it.
As the week approached for me to cover this fruit of the Spirit, I began to worry I wouldn't have a better understanding.
Someone was going to have to teach me. So, I asked the Lord again, and this devotion is what He revealed to me. When I look up the definition of joy, it usually says happiness and vice versa. When I consider happiness I think of laughter, smiles, contentment, peace, and rejoicing (maybe even some dancing and singing in there!). The struggle in my mind came when I tried to apply this to difficult circumstances.
A person loses their home and all their belongings in a fire...to be honest, if I saw them laughing and dancing around I would think they had cracked under the pressure! I know each of us has experienced some level of heartbreak: death, lost friendship, divorce, wayward children, financial ruin. My question to God was, "What does joy look like in these circumstances?"
During the past year, there were times when it took everything in me to just breathe and put one foot in front of the other. The Lord tells us to rejoice always (1 Thess. 5:16). I felt like I was failing at that.
Then, I was led to these verses: Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fall and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places. Did you notice what Habakkuk rejoiced in? Habakkuk did not rejoice in the difficult circumstances. He did not say, "Yay! There's no fruit on the vines, no food in the fields, no cattle in the stalls." He rejoiced in the Lord; his strength and the God of his salvation. He said, "Even though everything is gone, I still have the Lord."
Happiness is a feeling when everything is going just as we would like.
Joy is something we can choose to embrace despite our circumstances because it is the Lord we rejoice in! God helped me see happiness and joy a little more from His perspective. I love how gentle He is and how He wants to be our joy. We do have so much to rejoice in if we set our minds on Christ and our eternal future.
I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains. ~ Anne Frank
Dear Jesus, Joy can be a bit scary because it means facing the good and the bad of life. But fear dissipates when we realize we are not facing life alone. You are right there with us. Help me to courageously put my confidence in You today so that no matter what happens I will be able to experience the joy of knowing You are in control of everything. In Your name, Amen.