What is the difference in joy and happiness? That is the age-old question, difficult to understand with our limited-thinking mind. Are you joyful? Are you happy?
Do you remember the girls in school who had the bubbly personalities, constantly surrounded by friends? Or what about those guys with the witty personalities, who always made you laugh when they were around. I used to think those girls were so beautiful—that they were happy deep down. And who didn’t want to be around the guys who were always joking and laughing–they made you laugh too. I always envied their bubbly, witty personalities. These people were truly happy. At least that was the persona they showed to the world. I wonder now how many of those boys and girls were truly happy and how many were just acting happy?
Let’s look at the difference in joy and happiness. Happiness is temporary. It is a feeling. It is a response to all being right with your world. You are satisfied, seemingly content as you live your life. Joy on the other hand is deeper. It is internal. It is everlasting. It is not based on circumstances rather it is based on your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Joy is also a choice. While we may be dealing with difficult circumstances in our lives (illness, loss of loved one, financial strain, etc.) we choose to have joy because we have the assurance that Jesus is with us always, no matter what we are going through.
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him;
and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9 NLT
Just as happiness is temporary, the circumstances we are going through are temporary too. After all, at the end of our earthly life, we have the promise of eternal life and being in the presence of God for all eternity! This would be “eternal or everlasting joy.”
I am ashamed to say that I am just now coming to understand the difference between happiness and joyfulness. I’m not a spring chicken—can you say “senior” citizen?—so it is embarrassing to say as a Christian since the age of eleven that “pure joy” is a concept I am just beginning to understand. I realize now that I have felt joyful through many stages of my life; I just didn’t recognize it at the time because I wasn’t “giddy” with happiness.
Recently I have come to realize some truths about my own life. I have struggled with having a “quiet” time in the morning. I am not a morning person. In my younger years, when my feet hit the floor (after hitting the snooze button time and again), it was always a race to get myself and two kids ready for school and work. Even when the kids grew older and could drive themselves to school, I felt the need to “spur them on until they were out the door” which usually left me late for work. (My son inherited my snooze-alarm dependency. My daughter just didn’t know the meaning of the word “hurry”; she operated at her own speed or as a good friend used to say, she “marched to the beat of her own drum.”)
Sorry, I digress. My quiet time, devotional time, prayer time, or whatever you want to call it has always been sporadic. However, in retirement, I have realized I don’t want it to remain so. I decided I wanted to become more consistent in my time alone with the Lord. And you know what? Amazing things started to happen. For one thing, now I honestly look forward to getting up and being with the Lord. I don’t want to hit the snooze button. I also developed a prayer outline to follow so I don’t get too distracted and will remember to pray for everything I feel led to pray for; however, it is just an outline. I follow the Lord’s lead. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I talk. Sometimes I sing. Sometimes I sit. I just “go with the flow.”
The other morning, I came to the realization that the good feeling I was feeling during my alone time with the Lord wasn’t just happiness—it was truly “joy at being with the Lord.” An inner joy that makes me feel contented and eager as I spend my time with Him. I am learning to listen to him. He speaks to me with gentle nudges from the Holy Spirit. I will feel the inner urging to call, write, or pray for a particular person or event. I stop what I’m doing and write or pray. (If it’s early I wait to call until a reasonable hour so I sometimes I have to make a note to remind myself.)
I have also considered calling it my “Mary time” instead of “quiet time.” Remember, Martha’s sister, Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus? That is my goal for my alone time with the Lord. The length of time varies, but it’s always time I enjoy. It brings me true joy.
Here are a few ideas to help you find joy in your “Mary” time:
- Find a prayer spot. A chair, a room, a park, etc. Wherever you are able to drown out the busy world and feel the presence of God.
- Follow the ACTS outline to help you say focused. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Spend as much time as you need on each area. If you listen to the Holy Spirit, you’ll know when to move to the next topic.
- Use your Bible. I look up various verses on adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication and use them in my prayer time. When praying for others, I look up verses relating to their circumstance and use those verses. This is why I enjoy journaling; as I come across a verse I write it down so I won’t forget it.
- Listen. Take time during or at the end of your “Mary” time to listen to what the Lord is telling you. Some days you may not feel you hear anything. Other days you hear a lot. But expect that the Lord will speak to you. He will if you will just take time to listen.
- Follow-through. Once you say “amen” go and do whatever it is that Lord has told you to do.
As you spend your alone time with the Lord, you will come up with your own routine or outline for how you will utilize your “Mary” time. The important thing is to take the time. You will find the true meaning of joy if you do.