Joy is different than happiness. While happiness is a current state of the mind, joy is a mindset, while happiness comes and goes, joy remains constant, and while happiness is dependent and conditional on things going well, joy is independent and not conditional on such things. As Desmond Tutu said, “Joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not.”
Most important of all, while in our lives we will find many sources of happiness, as Psalm 16:11 testifies, the fullness of joy is only found in the presence of God and it is only through Him that we, like the Apostle Paul, can learn to be content whatever our circumstances (Philippians 4:11).
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Obviously, it is easy to be joyful and thank God when things are going well and much more difficult when things are not. But the wording of the verses doesn’t say that we have to be joyful and thankful for all circumstances instead it says in all circumstances. This means that we should continue to be thankful and live as joyfully as we can even in the midst of life’s storms. Author, Vivian Greene, once wrote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” As this demonstrates, gratitude and joy are a choice.
Prominent author and priest, Henri Nouwen wrote, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday.”
May we endeavour to do so over the coming days and weeks so that we can experience the truth of Nehemiah 8:10, that the joy of the Lord is our strength!