What makes you happy? A special person in your life? A job well done and deserved recognition through a raise or promotion? A fabulous vacation? A cute new pair of shoes? Your child’s smile? A puppy who greets you at the end of a really bad day? Something or someone else?
We all have things in our life that fill us with happiness, even if we’re down in the dumps.
The problem is that our happy tanks have a little drain at the bottom that can never be plugged up. So no matter how much happiness pours in, it’s always dripping out. Over time, as our circumstances change, we go through tough times.
And happiness isn’t filling our tanks anymore.
Our special someone leaves. We get burned out at work because of the long, grueling hours. The only thing we remember about the vacation is that we’re still paying the VISA bill. Our shoes are out of style. Our child is going through a bad stage. Our puppy now leaves a pile at the front door to greet us when we get home.
Why does everything have to be so difficult? We just want to be happy.
We talked yesterday about how one way of finding joy in our lives is to step back from our circumstances and gain the perspective of J-O-Y (Jesus-Others-Yourself). Today, I want to look at the difference between happiness and joy to find out how we can have true and complete joy. Joy that doesn’t fade. Joy that isn’t lacking anything. Joy that isn’t dependent on someone or something else in our life.
First “happiness”. Happiness is the state of being delighted, pleased or glad over a particular thing or person. Sometimes it’s tied in with good fortune or being lucky. But as we’ve seen, when the circumstances around things or people change, so does our happiness. And our happy tank starts getting low. Happiness isn’t enough to keep us happy.
When people say they just want to be happy, what they really mean is they want to find “true joy”. Joy is the state of being delighted and fully content over something exceptionally good or satisfying. True joy is joy that won’t fade over time and won’t weaken in the turmoil of life. It isn’t found in things we buy or people we know, because those change. True joy will never change and will always satisfy. And that’s because it’s based on Someone who will never change. Jesus.
We were made to experience lives full of true joy. We have a longing in our soul for it. But many of us don’t know where to find true joy, and so we go from one thing to the next, one person to the next, trying to fill up our happiness tanks. And it doesn’t last.
It’s interesting that when God talks about us being filled up, being made whole, He doesn’t say He wants us to be happy. He says He wants our joy to be complete. He wants us to experience the true joy that fills our tanks to overflowing and never drains out. A complete joy that’s found only in Him.
How do we find that joy? One word: Love.
Love Him. As our Father, He’s asking us to do and not do certain things, for our benefit and for our protection. And He’s asking us to listen to His instruction and obey Him. Of course, many of us don’t like the word “obey”. We have to understand that obeying isn’t about following rules because we’re being kept in a box. We obey God because He loves us enough to tell us what to watch out for. And we obey God because we love Him and want to show our love and respect by doing what He’s asked of us.
Love Others. Jesus said there’s one command that matters: Love. And then He challenges us to love others the way He loved us, as His friends. The reality is that we can’t do that. We won’t be carrying the sin of our friends to a cross to die a shameful, painful death so we can save them. But we can start showing our love for others. In our family, in our sisterhood, in our communities. We can honor and forgive others, no matter how they’ve hurt us. We can reach out and help others, no matter how messed up or how insignificant the world may think they are. By stepping out to show love to others, God’s love will flow through us. And that love will pour true, complete joy into our happy tanks.
Happiness isn’t enough to keep our happy tanks full. But true joy in Christ is.
“If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love… I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:10-13
May I pray?
God, thank you for showing us that there’s a difference between happiness and true joy. Happiness just isn’t enough, but most of us have never experienced true joy. Jesus, please help us to come to You and listen for Your instruction. Help us to grow in our love for You and our desire to obey You because of that love. And may we reach out to others in love, so Your love can fill us up to overflowing as we pour out to them. Amen.
Q4U: How can you reach out to someone today and show them love?