A Non-Happy Joy

This is the season to be jolly.  At least that’s what the song says. But the angels announced “it’s a time for great joy to all people.”

The question is, “Are you really joyful?” The truth is, most of us focus more on happiness than we do on joy. And yet joy is more powerful and to be valued more than mere happiness.  Don’t get me wrong.  Happiness is a good thing, but happiness is not joy.  As a matter of fact, you can be filled with joy, and not be happy.  You can be crying, you can be mourning, grieving, sad, struggling, even suffering, and still have joy.

So today as we ended our Polyester Jesus series, we said that real Jesus give joy. I gave five contrasts between happiness and joy.  We talked about the theology of joy.  If joy only comes from God and can’t be mustered up by circumstances or the environment, what are the three important theological ideas the Scriptures teach about joy? 

And then we talked about messy joy. That really is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? Can you have a non-happy joy?  And the answer of course is, yes. Joy is made for messy times, and messy people in less than perfect circumstances.  It’s that enduring quality that God gives each of us who reach out and take it.

If your life is in turmoil, and you live in fear, doubt and dread, then what you need is not happiness; it’s joy.  Because unlike happiness, joy is not atmospheric.