Happiness.  Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness seems to be elusive. Why is it so hard to attain?  Don’t we deserve happiness?  Doesn’t God want us to be happy?

Happiness is defined by circumstance.

What about joy?  Very few people seek joy.  Is there really a difference between the two?  According to Webster’s, the two words are synonyms.  But, as we look a little deeper, I believe that there are differences.  Major differences.  Happy is used very few times in the Bible (between 8 and 15 depending on which translation you use.)  However, the word joy is used over 200 times.  Why does the Bible focus so much on joy and not happiness.  Here are a few reasons why:

Happiness is fleeting.  Joy endures beyond our circumstances.

Joy goes deeper than happiness.  You can have a deep sense of joy and not “feel” happy.

Joy will set you on a course that happiness will never be able to match.

The most powerful verse in the New Testament that truly defines joy is found in the book of Hebrews.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis mine)

If Jesus’ goal was to be happy, he never would have endured the cross.  His goal wasn’t happiness.  He wasn’t focused on that fleeting feeling.  He was focused on the joy that was set before Him.  What was that joy?  It was knowing what the outcome of the cross would be.  And it wasn’t His place at the right hand of the Father.

It was you.  And me.  It was knowing that His sacrifice would begin the redemption process.  Not just for all mankind, but for all of creation.  It was knowing that the plan that had been designed before the foundation of the world would win the final war.  (There will still be  many battles, but Jesus defeated death and sin for all time).

Because Jesus endured the cross and scorned the shame of the cross with the joy set before him, we can have enduring joy.  We don’t have to settle for happiness.  We don’t have to have our circumstances dictate our emotions.  We can have the deep, abiding sense of joy that goes beyond our situations.  We can know the joy that Jesus focused on while on the cross.  And we, too, can live a life filled with joy.

How has joy enabled you to endure circumstances in your life?  What do you think the difference is between happiness and joy?

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