How about a little bit of math today, to keep you sharp. Happiness ≠ Joy.
Joy > Happiness.
That is to say, happiness does not equal joy. Joy is greater than happiness. Far greater.
Happiness can be used to describe a pretty wide range of emotions, most of which are either mild (like contentment or well-being) or superficial (to be happy about your circumstances or your good fortune). Joy, I think, is much more specific. Joy is great pleasure. Joy, real joy which is rooted in Christ and is a fruit of the Spirit, is anything but mild, and cannot be touched by any amount of good or bad fortune.
Happiness seems to operate like a well – we throw our buckets into relationships, possessions, sweet moments, little treasures – and we draw up happiness. In my life, each of those things are brimming with happiness! And all of these moments and treasures are gifts from God (Matthew 7:9-11, James 1:17), but there is nothing into which you can cast a bucket and come up with joy.
Joy, operates like a fountain. The only thing that can give joy is God himself. And as a Christian, the Spirit of God dwells within you, so joy comes from within. It bubbles up out of you, from of the overflow of your heart.
I can say this with confidence because of what Paul wrote in the book of Philippians. Paul was in prison, and had been for years when he wrote these words:
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Sprit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will…have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in by body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again…Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! … I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me…I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Paul was more joyful in his imprisonment than many of us are in our freedom and blessings. His joy was undiminished because he knew the reason for his joy was undiminished.
We must understand that our joy comes from God alone, and that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is of the utmost importance for our souls that we recognize that we can rejoice in any and every season in life, whether living in plenty or in want.
This is so much bigger than “Praise God even when you don’t feel like it.” It sort of bothers me when people say things like that. Paul isn’t saying that when everything is going wrong we should just praise God anyway - he’s saying that when everything is going wrong, we still have a reason to praise! We don’t praise God for kicks, we praise God because He’s worthy! Whether in plenty or in want we have a reason to rejoice! The reason is Christ in us, our hope of glory.
Are you rejoicing today? Have you, like Paul, learned the secret of being content in any and every situation? Are you perpetually drawing up buckets of happiness, trying to fill your soul – or are you overflowing with joy? If you find yourself in need of Jesus today, his joy is free to all. In fact, HE will rejoice in YOU when you come to Him to find your salvation, hope, peace, joy, and love. Get to know him more today, and practice rejoicing in every situation.
“This is my prayer in the desert, When all that's within me feels dry This is my prayer in my hunger and need, My God is a God who provides!
And this is my prayer in the fire, In weakness or trial or pain There is a faith proved of more worth than gold So refine me Lord through the flames.
And I will bring praise, I will bring praise! No weapon forged against me shall remain. I will rejoice! I will declare, God is my victory and He is here.
And this is my prayer in the battle, When triumph is still on it's way I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ, So firm on His promise I'll stand
All of my life, In every season You are still God, I have a reason to sing I have a reason to worship.
This is my prayer in the harvest When favor and providence flow I know I'm filled to be emptied again The seed I've received I will sow.” [“Desert Song,” Hillsong]