Joy–conditional or unconditional happiness

This morning at our men’s group, we talked about joy.  I said that the simple man’s definition of joy is extreme happiness.  I said this knowing that it would raise some eyebrows.  We are told that there is a difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness depends on circumstances, and joy does not.  I understand why people say that and this may be splitting hairs, but bear with me.

Biblical joy is based on your circumstances, primarily one circumstance in particular.  God has forgiven us and given us eternal life with Him.  His Spirit lives inside of us and empowers us.  He is changing and redeeming us, day by day.  That is the circumstance that we find ourselves in as Christ-followers–an incredible circumstance.  That should bring us joy.  It is not that joy is not circumstantial, it is that the one circumstance is so overwhelming and incredible, no other circumstances can compare.

If I were to win a million dollars and then 5 minutes later discover that a five dollar bill had fallen out of my pocket, would that rob me of the joy I felt from winning the million?  I would like to think that it wouldn’t.  In the same way, what can rob us of the joy of knowing that God is redeeming us, has saved us and that we will have billions and billions of years to experience his presence fully?  Can the ups of downs of day-to-day life?  Can the worst that life has to offer rob us of our joy?  It shouldn’t, if our hearts are focused on the intense joy that comes from knowing God.

Before anyone thinks that I am getting too preachy, here me say this, I am giving this lesson primarily to me.  Whether you are impacted by this or not, I need to write it and then read it and then read it again.  The routine ups and downs of my day greatly effect me.  My joy is typically determined by what has happened in the last 30 minutes, not by what God has done and is doing for me.  My hope and prayer is that I can live out what Peter proclaims here:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious JOY (emphasis added), for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I Peter 1:7-9


2 Responses to “Joy–conditional or unconditional happiness”
  1. Steve Manatt says:

    Good word Charlie. I’ve heard the difference between joy and happiness as this: happiness is a response to our situation or an object (I’m happy I ate at Larry’s today; I’m happy I drive a GMC truck; etc.), but joy is a response to a person and Joy is the specific response to the person of Jesus Christ.

    In all situations, there exists the potential to see Jesus at work. When that happens, Joy is the reaction regardless of whether the response to the actual events produces happiness.

    So, to me these two concepts are not the same or even derivatives of one another, but rather two distinct responses to different types of encounters in life. One is very much circumstantial and the other not because it is based on the unchanging person of Christ.

  2. Beverly Stringfellow says:

    Charlie, I enjoyed your post. My favorite verse about joy is appropriate to this time of year. Luke 2: 10 “Do not be afraid for I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

    Jesus came here with joy knowing about the cross and the rejection and all the areas that would not induce happiness. God found joy in sending his son to die for me. Because of this joy God sent angels to tell the shepherds the good news of great joy. God sent his son knowing all the tribulation and trials that would come to him and he did it with joy.

    Subjectively when I feel happiness it is on a superficial level but joy is very deep and comes from a secure place in my heart.

    That is how I see it.

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