I had noticed that in the Bible there is no account of Jesus laughing or chuckling or smiling, but there is mention of him getting angry, frustrated, sad, even weeping. I get the feeling that Jesus was a very sober and serious person. Well, when you have the project “Dethrone Satan and Save Humanity” set before you, and you’re surrounded with a bunch of helpers who don’t have a clue about what’s going on, nor understand the gravity of the outcome, you won’t really have the heart to banter, would you? I had often wondered if Jesus was a jovial (happy) or very serious (somber) kind of person.
Then in the Bible you would encounter passages like:
“…make Yahweh your only joy and he will give you what your heart desires.” (Psalm 37:4 The Jerusalem Bible)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2,3)
In the King James Version it goes:
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”
This passage exhorts the Bible-believer to be joyful when they face trials and temptations because it builds their character. Furthermore, the former verse (Psalm 37:4) says we should consider Yahweh (God) our only joy so that we would receive the desires of our heart. Can you imagine such things? They are pretty complicated concepts! If anything, “joy” in the Bible is a really deep thing that needs to be searched and / or dug up.
Well, talking about digging deeper, I did a word search on “happiness” and “joy” in the Bible. I got 242 results for “joy” or “joyful,” or “joyous,” whereas, I got only 20 results for “happy” and 6 results for “happiness,” and zero for “happily.” Hence, based on those numbers alone we can tell that for God, or at least in terms of relating with God, “joy” is a more important thing than “happiness.”
Happiness is something bubbly, short-lived and it may be cost-free (like rain during a lingering hot spell) or it can come with a big price tag (like a big elaborate wedding). It sometimes comes up out of the blue, too. It’s like one day you wake up and somebody yells, “Surprise!” and you find you’re being served breakfast in bed, because it’s your birthday! What’s awesome about happiness is that it almost always comes with that element of surprise. And for most of us, a pleasant surprise is always happiness! However, the trouble with happiness is, it hardly stays around. It evaporates the moment the conditions that brought it have changed. Like, in that moment of surprise when somebody shouts, “Happy birthday!” instantly the thoughts of a stressful day ahead are totally repressed. Not an inkling of it surfaces. You may be having an exam at 8am and you didn’t finish reviewing all your notes for that exam and you intended to do it on the train to school, and you’re already running late, but that’s totally obliterated from your consciousness at that moment. But the instant after you have enjoyed the breakfast, shared the laughs and awesomeness of the moment, taken the pictures for Facebook and Twitter, have thanked the person/s for the impromptu birthday breakfast celebration and have recovered from the euphoria of such a wonderful treat, you realize you have overslept, are running late and have to jump out of bed and rush out of the house! Adrenalin takes over and the effervescent feelings from the serotonin rush of the spontaneous birthday party (albeit cut short) suddenly disappears. Happiness had lighted on you and had lifted again, just as fast as it came! And then a cloud takes over the sunshine because now it’s “me against the world and I have to survive”! Alas, happiness is spontaneous and exciting but also short-lived, and impossible to store for future use.
Well, joy is not like that. The more you read the Bible you will find that joy is something deep and steady, and is generally described as “the inner peace that comes from knowing that you are living in the will of God.” It’s not ebullient, it’s not a high or a low, it just is. It can even be seemingly boring. I say seemingly because lately, the more I have been researching on it, the more I am learning that it is not necessarily boring. I think that’s the reason why, for a while, I wanted happiness over joy. It’s exciting! I believe happiness comes from God, too, and it’s a good thing. But just because it’s a good thing doesn’t mean we can have it all the time, or the way we want it. Actually, sometimes I think God purposely withholds certain kinds of happiness from us simply because He has other plans for us. God has taught me to think, “This kind of happiness may not be meant for me; other kinds may be, but not this one.” Or another way of looking at it is that God desires for us the excellence of joy rather than the mediocrity of happiness. There had actually been times when I had bargained with God, saying, “Why do you want joy for me, Dad, how about happiness instead?” Or, “Can I have both?”
Truth of the matter is, we actually can have both, as both happiness and joy have their apt places in our lives. They are two different things although sometimes, “joy” and “happiness” are words we use interchangeably. Our lives can be flooded with the ever-present pleasantness of “boring” joy daily and at the same time punctuated with the exciting surprises of happiness as well as the sting of pain and disappointments. Sometimes the pain and sorrow can come from having to obey the commandments of God. Sometimes to be able to obey the commands of God, we are required to give up some things which are “happiness” to us. When that happens we experience pain and sorrow, even grief – the opposites of “happiness.”
However, we need to be able to see that God has other ways of giving us happiness that He may send to us at a future time, and, for our own good, He withholds those happy events from us until our character is ready for it. God’s purpose for the believer is to have the character of Christ and if we receive our “happiness” prematurely we may just botch it and it turns bad. In a similar way, those God-approved kind of happiness would also be exciting and spontaneous, but at the present time we have to go through the trial of waiting so we would learn perseverance, endurance and patience. Furthermore, when we obey God in all things, that inner peace that comes from knowing we are living in His will (because we are obeying His commands), pervades our lives and that is what we call “joy.” So, yes, we can have our cake of “happiness” once in a while but the cake comes with the lemons of life, too, as well as the mundane staple bread we call daily life, and we can wash them all down with refreshingly pure, cold, mountain water called “joy,” everyday!
All Scripture references are from the 1984 New International Version, unless otherwise specified. Emphases in bold letters are mine.
If you wish to cite this blog, citation is as follows: PureJoyLand. (2015, Aug 30). Happiness or Joy – Can I Have Both?[Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://purejoyland.com/2015/08/happiness-or-j…an-i-have-both/