Happiness vs. Joy

If I learned anything today, it is this: joy is a very beautiful thing. 

Joy is also, however, a very complicated thing. It is not happiness and fairy tales and free laughter. It is a heart attitude, a steadfast nature, endurance. It is a fruit of the spirit that can only be acquired through experience. And by experience I mean trials. 

Let’s read James 1:2-4 again.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Want to know something interesting? The  Greek word for “joy” in James 1:2 is the same word used in Galatians 5:22. The original word, xara/, means one of two things: “a) the joy received from you, b) the cause or occasion of joy.”

Hmm. Notice it doesn’t say “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune” (as does Webster).  The joy James speaks of goes deeper than emotion; it’s a choice. 

The cause or occasion of joy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t necessarily think of “trials of many kinds” as an occasion of joy. I usually greet them with lots of crying, lots of anger, and lots of “it’s not fair!” 

And then I walk through the trial complaining about my circumstance until I see a big, bright ray of sunlight through the clouds. That’s when I have joy. 

I have it all wrong. 

You see, joy isn’t the product of a trial; it is the substance of a trial. It is the within the trial attitude of knowing that something good will come of the storm. Joy is not denial in the storm. It is not running around in the rain with your hands over your eyes. It is not looking at the fire consuming your house and saying, “That’s not fire.” It’s not denying the trouble; it’s denying the trouble of its power over you. 

Have you ever met someone diagnosed with a terminal illness? Were they joyful despite their condition? Or were they bitter because of their condition? I have met both kinds of people, but it’s the joy that made an impact on me. The people who can look at their stormy reality and have joy are the type of people I admire and strive to be like. 

Those are beautiful people.

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