Grief and Loss

Choosing Joy

IMG_5817I’ve often contemplated the difference between joy and happiness… Because at the first sound of the words, they seem awfully similar.

So what is Joy? Well, it originated from the word “rejoice”, which means “to give joy to,  to feel or show you are very happy about something.  (Merriam Webster)

Another dictionary defines it as ” feel happiness or joy, express great joy, to be ecstatic with joy” (vocabulary.com)

But my favorite is the way Rick Warren defines it:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation“. (Rickwarren.org)

According to my findings, the words “rejoice” or “joy” appear upwards of 300 times  in the bible. The word “happy” or “happiness” appears somewhere around 30 (depending on the version you use.).

It is curious to me how God chooses to use the root word of “joy” nearly ten times as many times as the word “happy”. Is this an example to us to live a life where we choose  to experience joy ten times more in our lives than we experience happiness?

You see, while happiness sounds wonderful and blissful and everlasting, happiness is truthfully fleeting and temporary and can be disappointing.  One day I may be happy because things go well in my day, while another day I am unhappy because things have gone differently than I had initially planned. Happiness depends on positive or negative experiences in our lives, while joy is constant, unwavering because it’s reasoning is different.

For instance, it is very hard (questioningly impossible) for one to be happy amidst trials and  deep sorrow. But, one can choose to have joy even through deep sorrow. It doesn’t always mean smiling and laughing and being lighthearted; but rather, a quiet confidence in God and assurance that He will again provide a way through even this. A sense of God being in control despite life seeming out of control. And choosing to smile because of this confidence. A “blessed assurance” per se.

Happiness happens as per of our “emotional color wheel” as I like to phrase it. We don’t necessarily ‘choose’ to feel happy any more than we ‘choose’ to feel sad, mad, angry, fearful or lonely( or a hundred other emotions). That’s our emotions kicking in as a natural response to an event in our lives.

Joy is different. There are times we certainly feel joy as a piece of happiness. It gets mixed in along with excitement, hope,   Pleasure, satisfaction, prosperity, bliss. But I think joy is so much more than just a ‘piece’ of happiness.

Joy is a conscious choice. One I can decide to make and to act or not act on. I can be happy about something and choose whether or not to be joyful. I can be sad about something and choose to still have joy through that struggle, or choose not to have joy in that struggle.

In my experience, choosing joy is so much more than that. Having this “settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life and a quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright…” Brings grace and hope and healing to one’s heart. Joy is about making “the determined choice to praise God in every situation”.  

Is it easy to choose joy in times of grief and hardship? I answer with a resounding NO!

But is it beneficial to both me and my relationship with God (and potentially others around me) to choose to be joyful in those times? I answer this with a resounding YES!

Happiness is an emotion we feel that often encompasses joy. It ebbs and flows depending on the events in our life. It is temporary and passive.

Joy is an active choice we make moment by moment and day by day. It doesn’t mean we are always smiling or upbeat. But it means we have a (oftentimes quiet but) solid assurance in the only One who is able to help us through any given situation-God.

It’s up to you to choose today. For me, I  must choose joy.

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