Do You Know Real Joy?

No, I’m not talking about the perky girl who bags groceries at the corner store! Rather, the elusive thing that Jesus claims to make full for us (John 16:24). Some think it means that we get a genie god who answers our prayers and bends to our will. That’s what we believe will make us happy. Oh, but there’s the rub … happiness is different from joy, isn’t it?

What’s the difference between joy and happiness? I’ve heard people call happiness a thin emotion that burns up too quickly. No one is ever happy for long periods of time. The happiness of a party is followed by that post-party-depression when everyone is gone and clean up stares you in the face.

Joy, on the other hand, is a longer-lasting condition, though we sometimes use joy as a synonym for happiness. “My wife makes me happy,” “She gives me such joy!”

We don’t separate the two very often.

As a Christian, I should experience joy, though I may go through seasons of sorrow and testing … which, if I’m normal, don’t make me very happy.

So, I was thinking about this and here’s what I came up with:

Joy is like knowing Christmas is coming and that there will be presents waiting for you. Happiness is the fulfillment of that joy when you discover that not all the presents are socks!

Let me put it another way … it’s the peace and satisfaction in knowing that something better lies ahead. Hanging on to that knowledge gets you through. Naturally, when you reach that anticipated shore, happiness will bloom.

Joy is the promise of the coming happiness.

Hope is the grip we maintain on joy.

The problem I have is that I sometimes despair to hope in the joy that is set before me. I fear that my happiness will never be realized because I question my hope and lose my grip on the joy that should be there.

Imagine Jesus’ life for a moment. He endured the torture of having the world’s sin placed on his shoulders, enduring the full wrath of God on our behalf and did so for the joy of ascending to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Jesus was known as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Doesn’t sound happy. He endured the sniping comments from those who claimed to be priests! He endured the selfish cloying of the public that only wanted physical miracles and magic bread and fish! He patiently worked with the disciples as they argued about which one of them could sit next to him!

He didn’t live his Best Life Now when he walked this earth.

He did it for the joy that lay beyond the horizon of the battle He came to wage.

Our joy is yet future. We need to hold on to the hope of that joy, not lose heart at the suffering we endure as we share in a small measure of Jesus’ life. In fact, we can celebrate when people—even so-called church leaders (pharisees)—cast us out of churches or shun us. They did that to Jesus. We can know we’re on the right path when the whole culture seems to hate us—they hated Jesus, too.

Our joy is that we will be translated to God one day to bask in the Father’s presence where we will know completely what true love is and experience everlasting happiness.

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2 Comments

  1. One of the things that I notice about my own peace and joy is that it sometimes becomes fragile when it meets the anxieties of others. I sometimes get the impression that perhaps what I am seeing as peace and joy is really complacency… that there are really many things that I should be very dissatisfied with our anxious about. I’m not quite sure what to do with those sometimes.

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