Happiness or joy?

Last week we were talking about joy. Overflowing, uncontainable joy. How many of you were wondering what that looks like? Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4, “Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let your joy overflow!” As I was looking at that verse, I couldn’t help but read it this way, “Be cheerful with joyous celebration. In every season of life, let your joy overflow.” Perhaps it’s my spirt telling my lockdown brain that in every season of life, we are to be filled with joy overflowing.

Just reading the verse on its own, it may sound like the Apostle Paul was having a good day. Life was finally working out for him and everything was where it was supposed to be. After all, that’s how we approach joy on most days. Well let’s start off by saying that joy and happiness are two different things. The fruit of the Spirit is not happiness, its joy. What is the difference between the two? Happiness is fleeting, it comes and goes. You can be happy one moment and sad the next. Joy has a staying power. It is fueled by the Spirit of God, so it is not easily deterred or dismissed. You just can’t shake it off.

We sometimes chase after happiness but what God wants to give us is joy. Happiness is always conditional but joy is not. That’s the thing about joy. It is not determined by circumstances. It is not subject to our emotions. Circumstances and emotions come and go. Our joy is rooted in Christ Jesus Himself and He is steadfast. This is why joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit not a fruit of my spirit. Jesus is the vine, John 15. He has all the fruit of the Spirit in Him. We are the branches, we get the fruit from Him. Joy flows from Jesus to us and through us to those around us. Outside of Jesus we cannot obtain and/ or maintain real joy. We may have moments of happiness, which is fleeting. But joy can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Our verse today tells us to let our joy overflow. The word “let” implies that we have a choice. To “let” is to “allow” which means we can disallow our joy to overflow and we can choose to suppress it. Last week we mentioned how the fruit of the Spirit is not seasonal, joy is available to us in every season. It flows from an unlimited Source. It is up to us to “let” it flow in us and overflow to those around us.

Back to the Apostle Paul, did you know that biblical scholars believe that when he wrote the book of Philippians he was in prison? Knowing the difference between happiness and joy will really help us understand why Paul could tell us to be cheerful with joyous celebration in every single season of life. Happiness usually attaches itself to something material whilst joy anchors us to Jesus Christ.

Joy is an anchor. It shows that we trust God. No matter what the situation looks like, we trust in our God. Things may look like a hot mess externally but internally we are anchored to Christ and we know that He is working all things together for our good, Romans 8:28. As children of God, it is important that we allow the joy of the Lord to grab a hold of us. The joy of the Lord is our strength, Nehemiah 8:10. The joy of the Lord releases peace and a quiet trust in God no matter the circumstances. It strengthens us.

Do not underestimate the power of joy. Paul didn’t. He went through so much for the gospel yet he wrote things like, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 KJV). Those don’t sound like the words of someone who has been wrongly accused and is sitting in prison. Only God can release that kind of joy into our soul.

Left on our own, there is no way we can look at our circumstances or Paul look at his wrongful imprisonment and write about joy. But with God, even though Paul was externally in chains, internally he was free and partaking of the joy of the Lord. He was allowing himself to receive the fruit of joy from the Holy Spirit and he was choosing to let it overflow through him despite his present circumstances.

We too can make the same choice in our day to day lives. We don’t have to let our external circumstances determine our internal atmosphere. We get to decide what internal atmosphere we want to carry and we let it overflow through us. Let His joy fill you and overflow through you. Choose joy.

Love and blessings

Melissa Tsingano

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