happiness vs joy

Why, hello there. I’ve been rather absent, haven’t I? I wish I could say I had a good excuse, but to be honest, I don’t. The only excuse I could make is the fact that I had very little inspiration, and no willpower to force the issue. But that’s not an excuse, that’s just a fancy way of saying, ‘I’ve been feeling rather lazy lately’, which is quite true.

Recently someone sent me an email, and this someone is someone I had not previously met but this person has made an imprint on my life, and through me helping her, is helping me discover things about myself I hadn’t known existed. Many of these discoveries are discoveries about who exactly I am, who I was hand crafted by God to be; while others are discoveries about bitterness and hate towards people I had full-heartedly thought I had forgiven. I’m also learning a little bit about living in the ‘now’.

You see, I have always been someone who lives in the future. By 12 years old I had detailed 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 year life plans written up. I knew what I wanted, and I had a detailed plan on how I would get there. Now, was this necessarily a bad thing? No, it wasn’t. But it took God out of the picture and left me longing for when I would finally start ‘living’. I looked to the day I would finally be happy, as if any ‘thing’ or circumstance would, or could, make me happy. And to be honest, this constant living in the future made my present pretty cruddy. I was dissatisfied, I couldn’t find contentment no matter how hard I looked. While I do believe that you should be striving to become better, to continue struggling down the path of your life, you should learn to be content in the here and now. And that is something I have always had trouble with.

It’s so easy to be caught up in fantasies of ‘what could be’. It’s so easy to look at your life in the here and now, sigh, and retreat into your mind to a time far in the future where life is a bit more exciting. Well you know what? Odds are, that image in your head is just that, an image. And that image may never come to pass. Even if it was to come to pass, life will never be as beautiful and perfect as the highlight reel you flash in your head. Life is about striving and pushing yourself to the limit. You’re supposed to go through trials. And to be honest, we’re not supposed to be happy.

Now, I know a lot of you are probably looking at your computer screens with your hand on your throat say, ‘What does she mean we’re not supposed to be happy? How dare she!’ So, let me clarify for you.

Happiness is dependent upon circumstances.  Now, I bet you any amount of money that Paul was very, very, very rarely ‘happy’.  But if you were to read his letters you would see that he was man filled with great joy.  Joy, unlike happiness is not dependent upon circumstances.  We, as humans, are constantly looking for that far off time to when are circumstances will allow us to be ‘happy’, and you know what?  Happiness is fleeting and oh, so fleshly.  We are called to live lives given over to God, to constantly fight against the flesh and it’s desires.  Now, is it wrong to be happy?  No, it’s not!  God gave us emotions for a reason.  But, if we constantly strive to ‘be happy’ we will never, ever achieve it.  It is an impossible goal, and one God never intended for us to reach.

While happiness is an impossible goal, and a goal that keeps us living in the far distant future, there is a true, beautiful feeling that we can have no matter what the circumstances!  We can have the supernatural joy of Christ, the same joy that Paul was able to live in.  I believe that being able to understand the difference between the joy of the LORD, and the happiness of the flesh is a huge step in being able to finally let go of that distant future and live in the here and now.

The joy that Paul and Jesus talked about is a joy and peace that lives within you regardless of circumstances.  It is what gives martyrs the ability to sing as they are being tortured, to praise God in their darkest moments.  While on the surface the two seem to be one and the same, when you really get down to it and look to where the two stem from, they could not be more dissimilar.

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