Confusing Joy for Happiness – Part 1

I had a conversation with my sister yesterday about the difference between joy and happiness as it relates to our everyday Christian walk.  We were talking specifically about marriage and how we as Christians often let life rob our joy in married life, because we pursue a fairy-tale, happily-ever-after romance, that just isn’t grounded in reality. We live in a fallen world in fallen bodies.

Reflecting on that conversation since, it really hit me that that there is a nagging impulse in my inner self that often equates happiness with joy in other areas of my life.   My husband and I have a pretty good understanding that our life isn’t a romantic fairy tale, (we just hit 17 years this month), yet our marriage is filled with joy; even when we don’t make each other happy.

Unfortunately, I don’t always apply that to other areas of my life.  In those areas, I have assumed that if I am not happy I can not be joyful either.  However, that is a falsehood that my emotions tell me.  Emotions only offer part of the story, and in that sense they can lie.  Emotions are my human, mental response to outside influences.   Happiness is an emotion that is dependent on well-being.  We are happy when things are going well, and unhappy when they are not.  Joy exists in good times and bad.

The Spirit that guides me into truth (John 16:13) tells me that joy is a product of God’s grace.  For my fellow math people, the prime factors in God’s grace are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.   There is nothing I can do to be joyful except choose joy; just as there is nothing I can do to be holy except choose holiness.  Joy of the Spirit, a beautifully developed fruit, isn’t an emotion.  It is an adopted attitude or way of life, if you will.  Joy in abundance comes only as I yield myself to God’s will for me.

The Spirit that guides me into truth tells me that joy is a product of God’s grace.

Yield: Small five letters.  Gigantic impact.  You see, even though we have taken the step toward salvation and asked Christ to be a part of our lives, we must still choose daily to take up our cross (Luke 9:23).  The Spirit is God, and God wants us to choose Him.  He has offered us free will from the beginning and it continues to be offered even after we have come to a saving knowledge of His grace.  That is why I say that joy is an adopted attitude.  You choose joy, just as an adoptive parent chooses to nurture a child.  Joy can only be lived out by the Spirit, but the choice to live in it is ours.

You choose joy, just as an adoptive parent chooses to nurture a child.  Joy can only be lived out by the Spirit, but the choice to live in it is ours.

So, in this exploration of joy, we have determined that joy is a way of life.  It is a choice to yield ourselves to the Spirit.  My next post about joy will continue this thought and hopefully offer some biblical examples of the differences between happiness and joy.  Please pray for me as I continue to study scripture on this, that I can rightly divide the words of truth and then apply them to my life (2 Timothy 2:15).

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