Many times we confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is what we feel when the conditions and circumstances of our lives produce a sense of excitement because everything seems to be falling into place. What this means is happiness is dependent upon what is happening around us. If things are going well and we feel happy, generally speaking. But if things are not going well, then our feeling of happiness is diminished or even nonexistent.
Joy, however, is not dependent upon the external realities of life. Joy is the condition of our internal self regardless of what is happening around us. Joy is not supposed to be something that comes and goes. Joy is something that is resident within us.
I don’t want us to think that there is no relationship between happiness and joy. There is. Our emotional state at any given time informs how we view what is happening around us. However, happiness can be understood as the immediate reaction to what is happening around us. But joy is more of a long-lasting feeling because it looks further down the road than what is happening now.
As an example of this, when my children were born I was happy. But I was also filled with joy. And the reason for my happiness was because they were now here with us, expanding our family. But I was also joyful because of what their lives meant to me.
Joy is more of a long-lasting feeling because it looks further down the road than what is happening now.Tweet
So let’s fast forward a few years, and now we have teenagers living in our home. Will there will be times when I am unhappy with what they do? Of course, there will be. But that does not change the hope that I feel when I think of what they could be. What they could become. I have joy for the potential of what God can and will do in their lives. And that is not dependent on the choices they make in the immediate moment that may or may not make me happy.
This is a somewhat simplified way of thinking about these two realities of life. My goal is not to define every moment that can either make us happy or not, or explain what can bring any person joy at any given moment. We should strive, the best we can, to understand how what is happening around us and within us can impact how we live our lives.
The season of Lent can be a time filled with moments of happiness or sadness. As we consider the realities of our actions and the consequences they may produce we are awakened to everything we do. But we also know that the season of Lent will eventually come to an end. There will be a morning when we arise and we will give God glory and praise for his goodness and mercy. And on that morning we will celebrate our redemption which was purchased by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
But the sacrifice was not the end of the story, it was merely a parenthesis. What this means for us is as we go through life from year to year, and as we continue our journey in this season of Lent, we must become more aware of the interaction between what makes us happy and what gives us joy.
The interaction between these two realities can oftentimes be difficult to decipher. But that does not mean it is impossible. We should make the effort in understanding this relationship now more than ever.