Lessons in Joy

Lessons in Joy

There is a very distinct difference between Joy and Happiness. This is something I didn’t learn until I was in my late 20’s at a Christian Women’s conference. In 2016, a few short months before the birth of my son, I went to the Belong Tour, which was basically a part two to the Woman of Faith conferences, which peaked when I was in highschool. This women’s conference was one like no other. Sharing the stage was Jen Hatmaker, Shauna Niequist, Nichole Nordeman and Patsy Clairmon (among others). The first night of this conference, I wrote a note on my phone. A note that I consistently went back and reread over the past 7 years. However, of course today- as I went to look for it… it is mysteriously gone…nowhere to be seen. Not even in the all powerful cloud that looms over my head holding every photo I cherish and password I ever created. I realize that it must have been deleted in the great phone purge of ‘22. But let me tell you, those bullet points held the key to my understanding of the true difference between joy and happiness. Good thing I have a great memory!

Looking back it is so incredibly simple, I am dumbfounded that it took 27 years for me to have this realization. Happiness comes from external circumstances. Joy… comes from God.  Compassion international describes it like this: “Joy is an inner feeling. Happiness is an outward expression. Joy endures hardship and trials and connects with meaning and purpose. A person pursues happiness but chooses joy.” This lesson is something that has helped me stay grounded over the past few years, a life-raft in the storms of life. 

Last year as I geared up for one of my most favorite days… Black Friday… I was cheery eyed and giddy! We mapped out our root through one of the largest outlet malls in the state. My mother, sister and I were armed with holiday cheer and comfy walking shoes. My father-in- law gave me money to purchase gifts for the family- love this… am I right… shopping with someone else's money. Well… this day took a turn… the holiday cheer and happiness completely dissipated when I realized my wallet was missing! I hadn’t purchased anything yet so I didn’t leave it somewhere. As my eyes widened... I realized…Someone had stolen my wallet. You have never seen a more outrageous sight than a 5 foot nothing, bloated from Thanksgiving, hysterical lady sprinting from the TJ Maxx bathroom to the Lego Store like she was running in the olympic trials. Hurdling strollers, dodging kids on leashes, juking grandmas, it was the 50 yard mad dash. I was in a panic. Looking back, it was the true grace of God that someone had found my wallet and turned it in… although it was missing the wad of cash given to me by my father-in-law. I felt so betrayed, violated and hurt. Confused and broken, not knowing how I would replace the stolen money that wasn’t even mine. As the day went on… listening to Mariah, drinking Chick-fil-A peppermint milkshakes and eating fries in the parking lot… I was dumbfounded… I was sad and I wasn’t super happy… but I was full of so much joy. Joy that I was with two of my best friends, joy that I had my wallet, license and credit cards, joy that no matter what obstacle I faced… I had the strength of the Lord. So after this experience I did what any rational person would have done… I bought a fanny pack. (Side note, I was also gifted one by my best friend… the most thoughtful and necessary gifts ever! Love you girl!)

Jesus taught us in John 15 that joy comes from a constant relationship with the Father. Not just a fly by night prayer every so often… but a real Heavenly Father- Child relationship. True joy transcends the hardships of life. When our heart and our lives are completely held by the Father it doesn’t matter what comes. Joy is not optional, it is an essential part of life.  In his sermon series on Joy, Pastor Todd Mullins reminded us that “Joy isn’t the absence of problems, it is the answer to solving them”! And this holiday season should not be about how happy we are… but how joyful we are. Because sweet friends as we look around all of the pain in our world today, the ache those who may be missing around our tree, and the multitude of struggles we face each day… sometimes it is so difficult to be happy… but we can have joy. Joy that our savior came to the world as a baby to give us the most amazing gift of grace and everlasting life.  

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