Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Happiness and Joy


I think about these words often, the differences between them. The absolute chasm that divides them. They are opposite sides of the river. One that is near and one that is far.

Happiness is a feeling, free as a bird. She comes and goes as she pleases.

Joy is a state, a platform way deep down in my heart, made of faded wooden planks with nails and splinters and places where happiness might never think to flitter.

I feel happy when my husband cleans the kitchen. I felt happy when I received my first big paycheck. I feel happy when William behaves in Target and everyone stops to tell me how beautiful he is.

But happy can't sustain me. Sometimes my husband will leave a trail of dirty clothes and shoes from the front door to the bathroom, and I resigned from my pharmaceutical research job to raise a family full-time (and the paycheck for this is non-existant). And once, OH THE HORROR, William had a tantrum and slapped me on the face in Target. Happy wasn't with me then.

But joy? Deep down, there in sorrow and happiness alike, with me always and forever, even when marriage feels hardest, or raising a child is monotonous, or the sting of multiple miscarriages feels too much to bear, joy in Him is with me. Joy that Christ is real, that He promises something better than this life. He is something I can cling to when happy circumstances have flown the coop and left me standing wondering what the point was in the first place.

I said it, and I know you might turn away, or roll your eyes, or wonder how someone with a master's of science can believe in something so unseen, but the peace and joy that come from knowing Christ are only a mystery before you believe. Outside of Him, friend, no peace like this exists. When you are shaken to the core, where can you go that cannot be shaken? Can't husbands and wives and church buildings and synagogues and mountains all come crashing down?

I try, in my happiness, to always feel my joy. So when I say that I choose joy, I don't mean that I put on a sunny smile if I am hurting, or that I push back tears, but that I remember this as they fall:

My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon my to the grave...you have made known to the me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Acts 2: 26-28

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