We are told that “joy comes with the morning,” and that our “joy may be full,” but how does that play out? How can we get that joy? When we feel those inevitable feelings of gloom and discouragement come upon us, how do we replace those with joy?
First, we need to understand the difference between happiness and joy.
Happiness – a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience. (Only 10 verses in the ESV contain a form of the word “happy.”)
Joy – a vivid emotion of pleasure arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction; the feeling or state of being highly pleased or delighted; the prospect of possessing what one desires. (A form of the word “joy” is found in 203 verses in the ESV, and many of these are accompanied by the exhortation to praise the Lord. Thanksgiving and joy go hand in hand.)
Happiness is most often associated with our circumstances or experiences. Happiness comes when everything is going “right” in our world. Happiness is not a bad thing, but it must be understood that it is fleeting – it will come and go without notice.
Joy, on the other hand, is based on truth – on a belief system. Instead of needing a “state of well-being,” that happiness requires, it calls for a “sense of well-being.” The difference is not in the circumstance, but in the state of mind. It’s not having everything that you want and desire, rather, it is wanting and desiring what you already have and being content with that. It is holding out hope that God’s promises are sure and that everything will work out for our good and for God’s glory. It is knowing that every circumstance and experience in our life is designed to bring us closer to God, and to mold us into Christ-likeness. As Christians, this should be our ultimate desire.
Sometimes, it is really hard to get beyond the circumstances and see the full picture. But remember, you will experience pain, sorrow, hurt, frustrations, etc. in this lifetime; however, you can have a joy that allows you to “say the ‘right’ thing to the ‘how are you doing?’ question” or give an unexpected, forced smile to that person who always says the wrong thing, even when you don’t feel like it.
Joy isn’t about feelings. It’s about the truth.
So, next time you wonder when you will feel happy again, try working on the “joy of the Lord” instead. Happiness is great when you have it, but it never stays forever. Put your efforts into something that will not leave you, even in your darkest moments. The transformation you will experience in your life, especially during those difficult times, will be amazing.
My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:17-24 (read entire chapter)
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
Original material by Holly M. Besser, Perfect Joy Ministries©2013. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bp30p03-17-13