Most people today chase happiness and never experience joy. The two are very different concepts. Happiness is a blurred emotion. Everyone wants to be happy and most pursue it at great cost. Most pursue happiness through external relationships or material possessions. Marketing specialists play to this internal want through a constant barrage of advertising that hits us every day. We're told that the new car, the new attire or the new relationship will bring us happiness. While most enjoy the pursuit and the purchase, the effects of happiness are only temporary. Once the euphoric "high" of the new relationship or new possession is reached, people go back to their baseline emotion of where they were before. Experiencing a better quality of life doesn't depend as much on money or material possessions as we might think. As Solomon said, treasures are "fleeting."
Joy, on the other hand, has little to do with external circumstances. Being joyful requires an acceptance of life as it is in the present. The Apostle Paul from a Roman prison cell wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, "for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength." We often quote Philippians 4:13 to prepare ourselves to do great things that are before us. In it's context, it really talking about one of the greatest tasks ever put before man.....contentment and joy. Paul is saying that he has discovered the secret of internal joy. Yes, through Christ he has learned to be joyful and content while living in a nasty, horrible Roman prison cell. Paul learned what few ever learn. Joy is internal and lasts, while happiness goes away. Was Paul happy in a Roman prison cell? Likely not. He was, however, joyful and content. Like Paul, sometimes we experience the worst in life. We will have these transitions in life until the day we die. Joy is a conscious commitment to be happy, despite life's challenges or obstacles. Joy is up to us.
Where does joy come from? God! Paul wrote in Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." In your darkest hour, God can bring you joy. Joy is an attitude or belief. It comes from within and gives us comfort and peace, even in the most difficult of situations. Biblically, joy is not an emotion. It isn't based on something good happening to us. It's an attitude of the heart and spirit. It's one of God's greatest blessings. Don't miss it!