Do you ever struggle with that desire … the longing of “I just want to be happy!”? I feel that way when I can’t seem to find time for myself or to do what I love. I have also heard the echo of those words from my sons when they were challenged to make homework the priority over play. Most of the time those words are said in a whiny or complaining voice – my own or when I hear others feeling frustrated over circumstances that aren’t going the way we hoped.
Happiness comes and goes – it’s pretty fickle actually. I can be happy when I take a last look at myself in the mirror, feeling relatively collected for the day before heading to work … only to get irritated when I step out the door and a gust of wind whips around me mussing up my hair. I feel happy when a friend I haven’t heard from in a while calls and I hear her voice, only to find my spirits plummeting when she tells me her news of the death of a family member.
Happiness ebbs and flows multiple times a day for most of us. It’s actually a pretty illusive emotion! The dictionary defines it as “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Happiness is dependent on feelings in the moment or on reflection of pleasurable moments. I am learning that joy is far more lasting … and can be a part of my life regardless of my feelings or circumstances.
The book of Philippians in the Bible is a terrific study on the contrast between joy and happiness. The Apostle Paul (and writer of Philippians) used the words “joy,” “rejoice,” and “joyful” sixteen times in that book … and wrote it while he was in prison! He shared that true joy is not dependent on our circumstances, but on where we place our focus – on our relationship with Jesus Christ. He told how his faith and trust in Christ had changed his perspective.
In my last blog post, I shared a new favorite verse on “joy” – Romans 12:12 – “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” That verse helps me understand better how Paul could stay joyful in spite of hardship. It helps me grasp a little better what James means about joy in James 1:2-4 when he says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” As I persevere through trials and the tough stuff of life (staying joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer), I grow in my faith and trust in God. He gives me his peace as he strengthens me and draws me close to him. And that’s long lasting and so much better than mere happiness! – Judi Brandow, Communications Specialist