In Luke 2:10 the Angel delivered good news that brings great joy. Not just joy, but great joy. Exceeding joy. A joy that transcends circumstances. So is there a difference between joy and happiness? We use these words interchangeably, yet they are very different.
Happiness is temperamental and volatile.
Have you observed how some people can be happy one minute and unhappy the next? They receive a text/phone call or don’t receive one and their countenance changes instantaneously!
Happiness is based on circumstances. If the circumstances are positive, you’re happy. If they are negative, you’re not happy.
If you find yourself on the happiness roller coaster, up and down all the time, you need to get off! It’s going to drain every ounce of sanity you have. Happiness isn’t bad, joy is better.
Joy is rooted in the unchanging, faithful character of Jesus Christ. He is faithful even when we are unfaithful. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. As the giver of joy, joy is unaffected by circumstances.
Joy is constant and sustaining whereas happiness is erratic and fleeting. Looking to people or possessions to add joy to your life is an unfair expectation.
The word joy comes from the Greek word “Chara.” This is the root word from which we get our English word “grace.” Joy is a by-product of receiving God’s grace which is why the good news brings GREAT joy! Joy is directly connected to the forgiveness of sin.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12
Psalm 51 was David’s response to having his sin called out by the prophet Nathan. David was spinning in a spiral of despair because of sin.
What he thought would fill him with joy left him empty. The guilt and shame of his actions were greater than the pleasure of sin.
Sin will promise to make you happy but will always leave you feeling worse about yourself and life when it’s done with you.
So, does this mean that happiness is sinful? NO! Happiness is not inherently sinful, but in our pursuit of happiness, we may find ourselves indulging in sin. Our fallen nature leans towards doing things that make us feel good but are not always good for us.
All happiness will fade causing you to pursue external desires, in order to feel happy again. Doing only what makes you happy is doing what will eventually leave you empty.
Sin is a common reason why we lose our joy. Sin an attempt to gain satisfaction apart from God. David learned this and prayed “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”
When God says “no” or “thou shall not,” He isn’t keeping you from joy, He is protecting you from pain.
What can I do to get off the happiness roller-coaster and maintain joy as a lifestyle?
#1 Confess your sin.
It’s one thing to be called out but it’s an entirely different thing to confess your sin. David got honest with God and called his actions for what they were, sin. Confession begins to put distance from you and your desire for sin.
Turn away from your self-gratifying pursuits and attempts at securing joy apart from God’s commands. Sin is a counterfeit of God’s blessing.
#3 Ask God to give you a willing spirit.
Most often when it comes to spiritual disciplines, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” You and I can’t overcome the stronghold of sin on our own, we need God’s help. The reason we must ask for it is that asking communicates desire. Without desire, no amount of help will help us.
It’s not the parties or the gifts that will bring you joy this Christmas and beyond, it’s a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ, which erases your sin, guilt, and shame and empowers you to live free. Joy will remain with you all year long, as you remain connected to God.