To lighten up our blog-life, switching to an easier subject has taken the stage, while the acting crew re-dress for the next couple of scenes and the stage crew switches props, this is my cue to fill 5 minutes with happiness and joy. “How do you describe happiness and joy?” was my question to several:
“For what it's worth, when I think of happiness and joy, happiness is from outside influences, joy is from inside. B
“Joy to me is like a fireworks display! It pops; it’s gorgeous. That’s joy. But the days following remembering our outdoor celebration under the sky with friends, that’s happiness”. J
“Experience of well-being is happiness. Joy is not what we produce but what the universe offers; the realization beyond anything we can do.” R
“Happiness comes without notice like when a grandchild crawls to you wanting to be picked up, then lays her head on your shoulder. Because you have spiritual peace or even your own created sense of peace, you can decide to have joy. Looking for or expecting joy amidst great difficulties is possible like the example of Corrie ten Boom, for her efforts to hide Jews from arrest and deportation during the German occupation of the Netherlands, was sent to a concentration camp, where she and her sister were horribly abused mentally and physically. After she miraculously survived, she wrote The Hiding Place which described the deep joy she experienced in forgiving her captors. K
Now, ponder how you describe the difference in happiness and joy. Consider an event that happened quickly that was just plain exciting, fun and completely unexpected. Then think about a happening which required time, ingenuity, finances, patience and adjustment, but you experienced joy in the long-run of tackling the situation.
As per usual, I checked definitions in a couple of dictionaries.
Happiness: unplanned occurrences fall under the definition of happenstance: First recorded in 1300-50, from the word happy.
“I’m going to find—look—for or expect something good—beneficial—helpful result— happenstance-something that happens’ occurrence, event. To take place; come to pass; occur; something interesting is always happening in New York. To come to pass by chance; occur without apparent reason or design; “Don’t ask me what caused it—it just happened, that’s all.” To have the fortune or lot (to do or be as specified); chance: I happened to see her in the store. To befall, as to a person or thing: something dreadful has happened to me. To meet or discover by chance (usually followed by on or upon) a clue to a mystery. To be, come, go, etc., casually or by chance; my friend happened along. The party was happening! ‘Be happy! Don’t worry’, a common 60’s expression.
Joy: A state of happiness or felicity (The state of being happy; such as marital felicity); a source of happiness; good fortune. First recorded in 1175-1225; Old French joie, joye, Latin gaudia—from glad. To feel joy; be glad; rejoice or the obsolete—to gladden. We have control over whether we are going to be joyful, thankful and satisfied.
Embracing demands taking a breath before we complain or reject a situation and taking time to sort through the rubble of life (happenstance) and choose what to keep for future use. Allowing raw happenings to force us to make a decision: consider whether or not to adjust to new ideas, accept alternative fixes or do nothing.
My take on happiness is that it sneaks up on us—simply happens--but doesn’t have a long shelf life. By contrast, joy, like a bulb, emerges slowly toward an expected outcome. As we adjust to whatever happens we intentionally draw all the good out of either disruptive happenings or necessary changes. After being married for a couple months, we discovered that I was pregnant. Quite an unplanned event. But Jim and I were forced to make adjustments which meant having to move out of our ‘free’ with yard-work-apartment because no children were permitted, and I lost my job as soon as the insurance company learned I was pregnant. Their policy in the 60’s. I was the major provider with Jim, a student. We didn’t have a sense of joy at first with all these disappointments, but we accepted the challenge and trusted the Lord to provide for our physical needs. Joy became evident in the process of the extra effort and strengthened faith. We experienced peace and brand-new joy with the safe and easy birth of Kay, and especially as we parented and enjoyed her. The deep joy of Kay continues to this day, and I will add the three other children that have followed her.
I picture happiness and joy as fraternal twins—opposite but related siblings. Happiness comes and goes. But joy remains, if we so choose, and it becomes a given—part of who we are. No matter what definition one uses, joy is meant to stick around like a kids’ chorus we use to sing. Maybe you did, too.
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. (where?) Down in my heart. (Where?) Down in my heart. I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart (where?) Down in my heart to stay.
A final example of the end result of happenings (not of choice) and joy (under control) eventually transporting one to the satisfying, reliable and lasting reality of acceptance is beautifully illustrated by Eileen, my sister-in-law, as many of you will recall, who lost her sight for no known reason that her neurologists can determine. Blindness was a quick happening that she has accepted with grace. Mac related a recent conversation with Eileen as they were driving. “You know Mac, I’ve been on an awfully lot of blind dates lately.” Mac said that he laughed. “Why are you laughing?” she asked. “Because that is so funny.” Then, she added, “And the dates have always been with the same man!” Her uncanny humor mirrors her marvelous positive attitude to what she cannot change.
As Mac, Eileen and I discussed happiness and joy on the phone this afternoon, I said “To me, Eileen, your humor and your up-scale attitude indicate that you have turned the unexpected occurrence of total blindness into a pursuit of joy.” Eileen replied, “Absolutely, I have joy.” She added, “I figure that since blindness came on quickly, maybe sight will return quickly. I’m trusting God.” Eileen has peace, joy and hope--gifts from God.
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22-23 (NIV).
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:6-7 (LB).
May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom: 15:13 (NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Col. 3:15 (NIV).