I was reading the other day and came across a profound statement that really stuck with me. In the bible, in Philippians 4:4 to be exact, the apostle Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” And I won’t pretend here to be an expert in anything Bible. But it was the depiction of this verse and the way it was explained to me, that really got me thinking.
We hear everyone talking about the pursuit of happiness—there was a best-selling movie, a few books, I even came across a book the other day called the Happiness of Pursuit, which I thought was quite intriguing—and yes, I did add it to my to-read list on Goodreads. But my point here is, we are all focusing on happiness, how to make ourselves happy, what to do on a daily basis to increase the happiness in our lives just a little bit; I can’t count the number of blogs focused on the topic!
But if you read the verse in Philippians again, Paul says nothing about happiness. He doesn't ask us to pursue happiness, he doesn't say, “Here, add these few things, implement these tweaks, and the Lord will make you happy.” No. He says Rejoice in the Lord! Joy. Not happiness. That should be our real pursuit. Finding joy.
Now when I first read this, I was like, okay, so what, semantics. Joy, happiness: same, same. But not so fast! The difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is situation dependent, and joy is situation independent. Now that’s powerful. Happiness is a cheap substitute for true joy. Joy is a deeply rooted confidence that God is in control.
You may wake up tomorrow and find out you've lost your job, or your dog died, or some other tragedy has happened in your life. You may even just stub your toe, or get a paper cut, or get stuck in traffic. Now, none of these things are going to make you happy. They’ll probably ruin your morning, your day, your week, your month, or even your year! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself!)
My point is, if you seek a life of happiness, you are at the mercy of every day’s circumstances throwing a curve ball at you and stealing that feeling away from you. But when you seek a life of joy, knowing that life has circumstances, that some days will be good and some will be bad, and that some years will be better than others, then you are no longer subjected to the emotional roller coaster ride of life, seeking a daily happiness that you may or may not achieve.
We all know that living and acting and decision-making based on emotions is a total danger zone bound for doom. So then why do we continuously seek unreliable sources of fulfillment in life based solely on the fleeting emotion of happiness?
Before I read this statement and this verse I honestly didn't know I was doing anything wrong, heck, happiness was my goal in life! I’ll admit it, I subscribe to a few happiness blogs myself! And while it is human nature to seek happiness on a daily basis (I definitely had a large mint chocolate chip milkshake at the movie theater today, thank you very much!), it is ultimately an impossible goal for a prosperous life.
I won’t stop following my happiness blogs, nor will I stop eating mint chocolate chip milkshakes, or any milkshakes for that matter! But I will reevaluate my life’s biggest goal, and now mindfully consider the difference between a happy moment, and a life of true joy. I encourage you to strive for happy days, but also to seek joy, to cultivate a life that consistently pursues, constantly learns, and never stops seeking.
Joy to the world!