I never knew the difference between joy and happiness until I experienced joy apart from happiness.
It is happiness that I feel when life is going my way, and while I can use the word joy to describe my happiness, happiness falls short—way short—in describing the way I feel when life is not going my way.
It would be ludicrous to say I am feeling happiness when my life is turned upside down and the dragons and giants are making noise right outside my door.
The gift of joy, one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, is something quite different from happiness. Galatians 5:22-24
It is more like a calm delight that has washed over me and permeated into the innermost part of my being with a message of assurance.
Joy is what I feel as I sit in the reality that I belong to a mighty God who knew these trials were coming and, in fact, allowed them, even caused them to enter my journey.
If for no other reason, it was to show me that he is with me as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
It is joy that I feel as I stand in the quagmire of problems in my life and cry my eyes out, for I know that he hears me weep.
It is joy that I feel when I read the stories of the heroes of my faith, like Joseph and Job who suffered much greater losses than I, but they lived their lives in real-time, too—24/7—and the Lord was with them.
It is joy that I feel in knowing the wisdom of God, who managed to get a book written by his faithful followers in ancient times so that I would be encouraged to press on with my writing today.
It is joy, not happiness, which I feel knowing that God is in control of my life. And not me. I was unhappy about this reality for several years while I was lost in the wilderness and unable to find my own way out.
Although I shook my fists at God, in his patience with me, he did not turn his back on me nor did he strike me dead, as I often wished he would do in my anguish.
Instead, he watched over me as I tried to save myself from peril until I was left with nothing but shame and humiliation from my failure.
It was as if God had split me open to expose me to the hidden and wounded places in my heart where my faulty beliefs and counterfeit strategies lived.
It was then that he showed me that being in control of my life was important to me primarily to avoid shame and humiliation from the world.
He showed me that it was fear that kept me from trusting him.
Fear kept me in the driver’s seat.
Fear caused me to believe that I deserved the life I planned for myself.
Fear caused me to believe I did not deserve this life of pain and loss.
It was the fear of looking bad to the world that caused me to believe that if I worked harder or smarter I could get back on top of the world and be happy again.
It is joy that I feel today, even in my sorrow and grief, because I have learned there is no shame in waiting on the Lord, who has proven to me in every step of this journey that he is trustworthy.
It is joy that I feel, while in the midst of a perfect storm that God chose this time to reveal his transformational power in my soul.
And even though I am still not jumping up and down for more of what it takes to distinguish joy from happiness, I am enjoying the peace that surpasses all understanding.
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Hades; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30 (excerpts)
As always, it is my intent and hope that my words may encourage you wherever you are in your journey.
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.–Jesus (Mark 4:23)
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