Happiness is a funny thing. Whereas, I often feel great rapture of my soul at times of lightheartedness and mirth, I, in turn find myself plunged into deep sorrow, confusion, and hurt. What does this mean, except that I am not happy? How can I feel such despair, yet still be found as God's beloved child?
Wrestling with these thoughts, I find happiness to be not the answer to life's troubles, nor that happiness is the greatest expression our souls can find. "Don't worry, be happy" falls incredibly short of being the mantra by which peace will rule in my heart.
I then find myself to be faced with this word, "joy". Joy we find shared in God's word coupled with love, peace, and other fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5). Joy is that thing we find even in the midst of dark days (James 1). In contrast, we do not find the word, "happy". What makes them different from each other?
In short, happiness is a whim; joy is a choice. Happiness is that which lightens my spirit, albeit temporarily, and is based largely on my feelings and emotions. I feel happy when someone says or does something nice to me. I am happy when things are going well and the skies are blue and sunny. Happiness is based on approval from others or in possessing some earthly, temporary advantage. Joy is that inextricable thing which combined with love and peace and the like is found to cause rejoicing of the soul even in despair. As I love, so is my joy. As I love, so joy then brings peace. And, in turn, other fruits of the Spirit. Joy is undeterred by the changing seasons and circumstances and lived experiences. Joy is not broken by a spurned heart or an indifferent friend. Joy is not dependent on a kind word or action from someone else. Joy does not waver in the face of rejection. Joy chooses to trust and have hope.
Joy is something altogether different. Joy is that which the Spirit gives me as I learn to love as Christ has so loved me. Joy is granted when I forgive as I have been forgiven. Joy is my abiding place when sin and sorrow press into my soul. Joy is my comfort when I recognize all earthly attractions hold no satisfaction.
Joy is not a passing whim. Joy is found as I remain steadfast in the knowledge that I have been greatly loved, greatly forgiven, and shown great mercy. It is also, then, by God's great grace that I can be filled with joy and knowledge and discernment to then love, forgive, and show mercy.
Joy is not a singular thing. It must be intertwined with all other virtues, lest it lose its effectiveness. Oh for greater stores of my Father's grace to be filled thus with his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, that indeed, my joy will be full of unspeakable glory!