Recently, I’ve heard teaching within the body of Christ that “God wants you to be happy”. Now, on the surface, this sounds perfectly reasonable. God wants us to be happy, what’s wrong with that?
There’s a massive difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is circumstantial. It says, if I have a great job, a great marriage and everything is awesome, then I am happy. But without those things, I can never be happy. Joy, however, is different. The joy of the Lord is never circumstantial. It endures in the middle of poverty, sickness and the death of a loved one. Regardless of what might be going on in life, I am filled with the joy of the Lord.
I have had chronic back pain for the past few years. This past week, I have also had painful stomach cramps. However, the past 2 weeks have been exceedingly joyful to me. I am still looking for a job and my problems are still there, but I see them in a different light. Eleven disciples saw a heavy storm and giant waves; Peter saw a walkway to Jesus and climbed out of the boat.
If you look at the life of Paul, you will see a man who was filled with joy far more often than happiness. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul outlines all of his struggles; being whipped, getting beaten up, getting into shipwrecks, going hungry, going thirsty, going without sleep…doesn’t really sound like a happy life, does it? In Philippians 1:12-13, Paul says, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ“. There’s nothing happy about being in chains, is there? But look at what Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23; he describes the fruit of the Spirit. Do you notice that happiness isn’t one of them?
In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with happiness. However, the problem with pursuing happiness is that we tend to become very self-centered if we do so. Pursuing the joy of the Lord allows us to keep God’s will, regardless of our circumstances. So I pray that the Lord blesses you with joy in every circumstance, that you may endure through all hardships and praise Him in every storm.