Happy vs. Joy…

There is a sign that hangs over our family’s front door every Advent season.  It’s a rope-light sign that shares a simple message with one word, “Joy”.  We hang it every year to remind ourselves that the coming of Jesus brings us joy.

That being said, there are so many people this time of year who are not full of happiness.  It’s easy to get confused about joy and happiness, but the two are distinctly different.  Feeling happy is connected with the events and things in your life.  Joy is something you experience on a deeper level because of the hope and peace found in Jesus.

It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s possible to joyful and sorrowful at the same time.  “Even in laughter the heart may ache”, says Proverbs.

…stories in the midst of cancer treatments.

…laughing with a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy.

…coffee with a fellow christian brother after a disagreement

So what does that mean?  Does it mean that we are hypocritical?  Does it mean that we aren’t truly joyful?  Where does joy come from?  To answer that question, let’s do a quick fly through the bible…

  • JOB FOUND JOY IN NOT DENYING THE WORDS OF THE LORD.

  • THE PSALMIST TOOK JOY IN GOD’S PROTECTION, PRESENCE, LAW, WORSHIP, SALVATION, REIGN, REDEMPTION, LOVE, AND GOODNESS.

  • IN PROVERBS, JOY IS FOUND IN WISE SONS, THE DOWN-FALL OF THE WICKED, PEACE-MAKERS, JUSTICE AND PERFUME. (YEAH, I WAS SURPRISED BY THAT ONE TOO…)

  • ISAIAH IS JOYOUS IN THE GLORY OF GOD AND HIS COMFORT AND FUTURE REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL.

  • JEREMIAH ISN’T THE POSTER CHILD FOR JOY, BUT FOUND IT IN GOD’S WORD, GOD’S BLESSING AND AGAIN THE FUTURE REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL.

  • IN THE GOSPELS, IT’S IN RECEIVING THE SEED OF THE GOSPEL; FINDING THE KINGDOM; SEEING JESUS’ BIRTH AND POWER.  JESUS FOUND JOY IN GOD’S MYSTERY BEING HIDDEN FROM THE WISE AND REVEALED TO US AS CHILDREN.  IN JOHN, JESUS TELLS US THAT OBEYING THE FATHER’S COMMANDS WILL BRING US JOY.

  • IN ACTS, JOY IS EXPERIENCED IN FOLLOWING THE FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE GENTILES BELIEVING IN GOD.

  • IN ROMANS, JOY IS FOUND IN HOPE, THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE CHURCH.

  • THE GALATIANS LOST THEIR JOY AND WERE TOLD TO FIND IT IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.

  • THE PHILIPPIANS WERE ENCOURAGED TO FIND IT IN THEIR FAITH AND UNITY.

  • JAMES ASKS US TO CONSIDER IT PURE JOY WHEN WE ARE PERSECUTED FOR OUR FAITH.

As I read that list, I realize that joy is mostly found outside of myself and most fully found in God.  This, again, is the theme of Advent…waiting for joy is waiting for God.

As I thought about joy this week, I realized that I am finding joy these days in helping others.  Meals taken to families in need.  Gifts given to expectant mother’s.  I am finding joy in shining light into the darkness not knowing the outcome.  As one songwriter wrote,

And I can’t understand

And I can’t pretend

That this will be all right in the end

So I’ll try my best and lift up my chest

To sing about…this…JOY…

I don’t understand it.  But I know this is true.  Joy isn’t something I will find in myself.  I can’t find it there.  Joy is only found outside myself in the person of Jesus who brings his joy and peace like a river.  To paraphrase Jude 1:24-25,

ONLY HE IS ABLE TO KEEP US FROM FALLING.  

ONLY HE IS ABLE TO PRESENT US INTO HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE WITHOUT FAULT.

ONLY HE IS ABLE TO DO ALL THAT AND GIVE US GREAT JOY BOTH NOW AND FOREVER.

AMEN.

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