Being ‘Joyful’ Versus Being ‘Happy’

“Joy is essential to the spiritual life.  Whatever we may think or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thoughts and words cannot bear fruit.  Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that His joy may become ours and that our joy may become complete.  Joy is the experience of knowing you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can ever take that love away.

Joy is not the same as happiness.  We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God’s love for us.  We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together … Joy does not simply happen  to us.  We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.  It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”         – Renewed for Life, A daily Lenten devotional based on the writings of Henri Nouwen, copyright 2011, Creative Communications for the Parish

When I was deciding on a logo for the company I now run, I asked myself, “What message would I give to the world if I could?”  As I looked around, I realized that so many people have lost the joy of life – they were going through the motions without being really connected to the world around them, living in their pain and suffering.  I thought back to when most of my attention was focused on my troubles and my inability to fix them.  I realized the difference in my life came not from my own ability to make my life better, but from my understanding that, even though life has been a struggle, there was a Someone who loved me and didn’t care about how smart I was, how much money I made, or whether I ‘got it together’ or not.  I had chosen to rest in the knowledge that all my troubles were but temporary bumps in the road and that God would stand with me in my hardship and bring me through to the permanence of His peace no matter what, if I would just trust Him.

And as I honestly examined my life, I realized that in those dark times where the world seemed to be against me on all fronts it wasn’t that there was nothing ‘good’ happening.  The difference was  I had chosen to focus not on the way I was blessed, but on all things that caused me pain.  The difference was I wanted to rely solely upon my own ability to create happiness in my life instead of focusing on the joy of being loved in the midst of those hardships.  The difference was God and my ability to ‘let go’ of my pain to focus on all the good things in my life.  I decided I needed to share that message of hope with the world.

So I wondered, “How can I ever say so much in a 5-second sound-byte?’  The answer was quite obvious – go to the source of my joy.  And there, amidst all the stories of failure and redemption, of rebellion and mayhem and defeat, was the overlying theme of looking at and focusing on the perfect love of Jesus Christ and the joy it could bring to the world.  The message that, instead of worrying about our happiness, we needed to focus on the gift of life and all the joy it brought to us, that to find that joy we needed to stay close to the One who provided it for us, and our need to be mindful and thankful for that joy every day – and all in ten words:

“Be joyful always; Pray continuously; Give thanks in all circumstances…”            – I Thessalonians 5:16-18

May YOU find the joy of the knowledge that God loves you, too.

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