Joy or Happiness?
Do you realize that you do not have to escape your current life to experience happiness and joy? I clearly remember the second marriage counseling secession that Rex and I had during the beginning of our almost twelve year separation. We had been asked to study the life of the Bird Man of Alcatraz. The whole point of this exercise was to point out that one doesn’t have to reside in a happy lifestyle in order to possess joy.
So if joy doesn’t come from our circumstance where do we find joy? A word of caution is appropriate at this point. I have heard sermons that pointed out the difference between happiness and joy. The theory was that happiness is an emotion in which we “experience feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure,” whereas joy “is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness.” We experience joy when we are spiritually connected to God or people.
Randy Alcorn writes in his blog, “The following is typical of the artificial distinctions made by modern Christians:
“Joy is something entirely different from happiness. Joy, in the Biblical context, is not an emotion… There is a big difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is an emotion and temporary; joy is an attitude of the heart.”
However, my question is, “What does the Word say?”
- “Happy [blessed, considered fortunate, to be admired] is the man who finds [skillful and godly] wisdom, And the man who gains understanding and insight [learning from God’s word and life’s experiences],” Proverbs 3:13 (AMP)
- “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (AMP)
- “Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained; but happy and blessed is he who keeps the law [of God].” Proverbs 29:18 (AMP)
- “How blessed [happy, fortunate, spiritually prosperous] and beloved is he who waits expectantly [enduring without wavering for the period of tribulation].” Daniel 12:12 (AMP)
In an interview, Randy Alcorn stated, “I think the first thing we need to realize is that historically there was no such distinction in the church and in the English language. Simply look up joy in any secular dictionary and you’ll see it defined as happiness, and happiness defined as joy. They are synonyms with overlapping meanings. I’ve asked people, ‘Could you show me any passage from Scripture that suggests some contrast or even substantial difference between happiness and joy?’ And there just is no such thing.”
The circumstances in which we live are often reflected in our faces and demeanor. However, according to the Word those circumstances certainly do not have to impact our happiness and joy. We get to make a decision – grumpy or content, happy and joyful or sad. No matter what your chaotic life’s circumstances appear. you can still experience happiness and joy, but you will probably have to fight for it. All of this is a reflection of the condition of the heart.
“So here’s what I want you to do, with God’s help: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
So this is the secret to having happiness and joy in the midst of your chaos – “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”
You have a choice. I encourage you to choose happiness and joy over the world’s way….and make sure to tell your face of your choice.