We like being happy. We crave joy. However, do we have joy? Do we even know what joy is? And lastly, if we don’t have joy, why not?
Here are a few thoughts on why we don’t have joy and how to find it":
Are Joy and Happiness the same?
Probably not. At least, a brief scan of other blog posts suggests that most people don’t think they’re the same. I dig a little digging of my own, and here’s what I found:
Happiness is more of an emotional reaction or something that is temporary based on circumstances. Joy can be manifested as happiness, but it has more to do with an attitude or state of mind—not necessarily reacting to circumstances. Joy also refers to happiness at a higher level. Dictionary.com defines it as: “emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”
So the question remains: Why don’t I have joy?
I Look for Joy in Circumstances
I’m really good at trying to control my circumstances. Even if I manage to yield myself to God’s will in one situation, another one comes along that is slightly different, and it’s like, “Oh no! God obviously didn’t see THIS coming. I’d better worry and try to control this!”
It’s as if he’d never done anything for me before. When my efforts to control life fail or things don’t pan out in the way I expect, I certainly won’t find joy. And even if things do work out sometimes, the joy I seek will not last. There will always be something else that will bring worry and threaten my ability to control circumstances.
I Expect Joy to Just Happen
Besides the times I try to control life in order to produce joy, I can also miss it by waiting for it. If I keep out of trouble, I expect joy to come knocking one day like Ed McMahon—“You’re a winner!” We don’t win joy like a lottery ticket. It is not won so cheaply.
I Look for Joy in the Wrong Places
It seems there is a counterfeit for every good thing in life. We can seek love in all the wrong places and even sing a song about it. Joy has many short-term counterfeits that typically are based on the happiness brought about by circumstances, not the lasting joy that comes from outside of ourselves.
I Forget Where Joy Comes From
I’ll be honest: I haven’t experienced a lot of joy. At least, I feel like I should be experiencing a lot more joy than I currently experience since I’m an expert at keeping busy and avoiding God. The greatest moments of joy come when I’ve opened myself to God and allowed him to speak in my life. When I’m encouraged by the joy that comes from God, I have a sense of acceptance, comfort, and love that can overcome my circumstances.
When I’m filled with God’s joy, I can share it freely with others. I’m aware of someone larger than myself and can take my eyes away from my fears and desires. God’s joy teaches me to delight in the things he values.
When God’s joy is streaming into my life, there is no way that anyone or anything can stop it or bottle it up.
For More Posts on Joy: Read Bonnie Gray’s “Top 3 Misconceptions about Joy.”