Joy: it seems so elusive to many people. Why is that?
Sometimes, I think it’s because it easily gets confused with happiness. In fact, sometimes even Bible translations confuse us on this matter, using “happy” when they mean “joyful”. It may seem like angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin semantics, but in everyday language, I think we do well to keep the two terms distinct.
Think about it in terms of cultural sayings popular in the west:
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy [your favourite thing], and that’s the same.
Happiness depends on ourselves.
Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.
That last one comes from Ayn Rand, a Russian-American philosopher of the twentieth century.
We are a people who strive for happiness, and we often find it lacking something once we think we’ve achieved it.
There’s nothing wrong with being happy, but it can’t possibly compare with joy. While, etymologically, the terms are connected, for followers of Jesus, there is a depth that comes with joy with which “the pursuit of happiness” just can’t compare.
Think about the special times in the life of church and family that are celebrated: what’s the common word that’s used, say, at Christmas and Easter? “Rejoice!”
That’s where joy comes from – rejoicing in the goodness of God.
We may think we have the right to be happy, but we have the privilege of joy. Embrace it as a gift from God.
“…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8.10b, NLT).