Happiness vs Joy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In this season where happiness is supposed to be running rampant like wide-eyed, sugared-up tikes, many struggle finding happiness in anything at all. For some, Christmastime can be a sad time of year; a time spent reflecting on what we don't have - money, a spouse, success, etc. - things that the world says are requirements for happiness. If you don't have those things at Christmas, well - you're just sad and pathetic.

The world can look at me and see exactly this - I'm a college drop out, I'm unemployed, I'm one of those "fanatical Jesus people", I married way too young, I'm still too young to really be taken seriously, I'm stuck home with two kids who were born too close together, I live just above the poverty line, I drive a granny car, I live in an old house...I could go on and on. It gets to me sometimes. I'll admit that. The world has a way of always making you feel like crap.

Happiness is such a fleeting thing. Loved ones pass away, spouses leave, riches can turn to rags, and dream homes can easily burn to the ground. Thus is happiness. Here one moment, gone the next. We've all been there. We've all experienced that. Or maybe we haven't experienced a loss. Maybe we're all just wanting what the other guy has. I know I'm certainly guilty of that from time to time. It makes us start to ask the "what if's", regretting the lives we've lived, thinking we've missed out on something better. What if I would have told Matt to wait for me when he proposed, so I could finish my schooling and start my career? What if I had all the money in the world and never had to worry? What if I would have waited to have a second child a little longer? Or to not have children at all? Would I be any happier?

I say, with some certainty, no. I can't imagine my life being anything else other than what it is at this exact moment - poopie diapers and all. I used to really regret my life and the choices I had made along the way - what a selfish way to think! That was before I found fulfillment and satisfaction in Christ. All the decisions made happened because God chose them and caused them to happen. Ultimately, He caused me to travel those paths in order to bring me to salvation, but also He brought me here because this is exactly where He wanted me to be. Because of that, I am content. I have that blessed assurance that tells me that no matter where the road leads me, no matter the hardships or disappointments, the up's and down's, the failure of not meeting the world's "happiness quota", His love is steadfast and His salvation is enough - no matter what this life throws at me. That is joy. Pure, unchanging, unending joy. Once you have that, happiness seems nothing more than exactly what it is - a fleeting emotion based on nothing but our flesh wanting more and more of what everyone else has.

Who can live up to an ever-changing standard? No wonder people aren't happy! They can't keep up! Jesus makes it simple - come to Him with repentance and faith and He will give you great joy and hope in salvation. Not easy days or everything you've ever wanted and wished for, but contentment. Because in His eyes, you're exactly who you need to be and where you need to be - a redeemed soul, bought and paid for with His precious blood, Heaven-bound for all eternity.

So, this season when we're rushing around, trying to wrap happiness up in a bow, hoping it stays beyond the holidays, let's celebrate the true reason for the season and for our joy - the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who was born to die on the cross for all our sins. Compared to that, happiness is meaningless. You don't have money? A spouse? That dream house? Don't need them. All those things pass away. Hope and joy in Christ are all you'll ever need.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
-Psalm 16:11