What is joy? Is it the same as happiness? What about contentment? We are all in pursuit of “happiness”. But what is it really and will finding it really make us happy? Have you ever thought about the differences between each of these? Since we are in the third week of Advent and the focus in on Joy, this recent incident makes perfect fodder for this week’s post.

At a Christmas party this weekend here at my complex, I had quite a lively discussion about the differences between happiness and contentment. Seems folks have very different takes on what each of these are.

“I’m content”, I commented.
“You mean you’re settling,” he said.
“No, I am content. At peace with my life.”
“Well, I’d rather be happy,” he said.
“Happiness depends on our circumstances and is temporary,” I countered.
“Contentment is boring,” he replied.
“What about joy?” I asked.
No answer.

I took a poll at a nearby table and asked what everyone thought. The question precipitated quite a variety of answers. Philosophers define happiness in terms of the good life. The Declaration of Independence says that  “the pursuit of happiness” is an inalienable right. Happiness speaks to the external qualities of life such as health, wealth, & beauty. Happiness is in the mind and the feelings. Yes, we all desire and seek the good life, but what happens when our external circumstances change? The stock market takes a nose dive? The doctor gives us bad news or our relationship hits the rocks? What then?

Then our perspective changes. It is time to seek the deeper gift of joy.

What is joy? Joy is spiritual over carnal. Joy comes from God. It pervades my soul and my spirit  when my external circumstances fail to provide me with the happiness my flesh craves. Consider this verse from Ecclesiastes 2:26 :

 “For to the one who pleases him <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>the business of gathering and collecting, <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>only to give to one who pleases God. <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”

If your circumstances are less than perfect this holiday season, do not despair. Life will never be perfect here on this earth.  If you are broken hearted or sad, you can still have joy, because there is One who will never leave you or forsake you.  If you are stressed out  with all the demands of the season, relax. Joy does not come from things or people. Joy comes from the spirit of God.

So today, if you are seeking more joy in your life, I encourage you to find time to meet with the Giver of joy. For more on this topic, check out this interview with Kay Warren, and until next time, keep looking up!


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