I recently asked one of my friends to tell me one of his dreams.
He thought for a moment and replied: “To be happy”, but a second later he corrected himself. “Actually, not to be happy, but to feel joy…to experience joy.”
I wrote it down. But the dream raised question in my mind and the distinction he painted between the two things got me thinking. What was the difference? What was it that separated joy and happiness (if any)? Was joy purely emotional? Was joy a person smiling all the time and running around? Was it silent? Was it real? Was it constant? Was it possible to ever truly be happy?
Was it sin for Christians to be perfectly happy in an imperfect world? Had joy become this unspoken wrong among the righteous and the pious? And I stil had to meet a single person who was 100% honest and 100% happy at the same time. Why? Because all my friends live tragic lives or are eternal pessimists? Far from it!
A lot of them are very strong people that climbing hills of Difficulties with hope in their heart and a lot of them laugh more than a child on a sugar high. A lot of them have good lives. A lot of them should be happy.
And then it hit me….
Happiness is not immortal. Happiness can, in our reality, be torn down, defeated, polluted, diluted, corrupted and broken. It is fickel, it is destructible. It is imperfect. And yet, if God wishes for us only good things, how can this not be a thing to reach after? Perhaps is a shadow of something to come, for as soon as I feel happy I am not happy anymore. As soon as I notice that I feel perfect, the faithful flood of imperfection floods me. As soon as I analyze this bubble, it pops. It is the water you will always taste and never be satisfied on.
You can break this down to personality type or lack of “Oprah Winfrey positive thinking”, but I highly doubt it. I think it is a Universal rule. The pursuit of happiness is a mirage we chase.
“But,” you say, “I have met happy people! I know people who are truly happy with their situation and their lives.”
Yes, but this is where happiness/pleasure and joy part ways. Joy is different. I thought to myself, perhaps it is like a person who has watched a movie about a disastrous progression of events, and therefore can rest at ease in the knowledge that there is a happy ending. It gives you peace to know that there a promise of hope. This is, however, not to be mistaken with the saying “The end justifies the means.” It doesn’t. It rarely does. But it is a promise.
Joy is a security- the bubble that can’t be popped, because it’s made of steel. Joy is not more boring or more calm or more pious. It is simply something that belongs to eternity. And perhaps that is why joy is more like a wedding than a party. It does not rant and rave for a few hours and then wake up with a hangover. Monday morning cannot break joy. It is an informed decision of a constant, faithful devotion to a love.
Maybe you’re thinking: “But I can’t be faithful. I can’t stay strong. I can’t be constant in my devotion!”
It’s ok. I wasn’t talking about YOUR devotion. Jesus’s devotion to you and to your life is constant. It won’t falter. So although your situation may change, or your relationships waver, the fact that he’s not going anywhere is your guarantee to joy. Does this mean you’ll be happy all the time? PLEASE! Not at all! Jesus certainly wasn’t. The man of Sorrows doesn’t quite suit that description, does he.
The joy that he wants to help us own is the type that says constantly: all things work for good for those who trust in the Lord.
It makes sense that such an undying thing as Joy should supersede mere emotion, events or situation. They are bonuses for the one who has joy.
And in a way it makes me feel less fickle. Being bound to something unbreakable is comforting and plants a seed of joy.