If I were to ask you to name the things in life that make you the happiest, what would you say? Time with friends and family, sports, cooking, going to the movies, shopping, getting a new car; the list could go on for days. But have you ever known someone who was happy but not joyful? Doesn't seem to make sense, does it? You see, there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on feelings; and those feelings are very fleeting. We could start our day off with a great cup of coffee and time in the word and we feel happy. But then we hit the "real world" at our job and our happiness quickly fades to frustration and irritation with people or the pile of work that lies before us. We are happy when our kids win their basketball game but then we get home and see the heap of laundry, and our happy mood again fades to dissatisfaction. Happiness, like sadness or excitement, is a feeling that is usually dependent on our day or our circumstances. Joy is something deeper. Much deeper.
It may not come natural for you to be excitable or outgoing, but good news! You can still be a joyful person. I believe joy is something that we ARE. It is the peace that comes with knowing that God is in control. It is an attitude that we carry, an attitude of hope and calmness no matter what our circumstances may be screaming at us. It is something that exudes from our soul. The word joy is mentioned over 150 times in the Bible; it must be pretty important! Have you ever seen someone walking through a deep valley and you can still see their joy; the joy that lives deep in them and radiates through their words and actions? I saw that in a sweet couple who lost their teenage daughter in a car accident. I have seen them several times since and although they were obviously distraught and grieving her loss; you can see something deeper in their eyes, in their speech. They have that assurance that they will see her again, they have joy in the middle of their pain.
I believe joy is a wonderful way to evangelize to a lost world. We probably all know people we would define as cranky Christians. Negative, never smiling, constantly complaining; that is an unattractive and false representation of Christ. But when people see someone with joy, they wonder what the source is. Jesus is the only source of true joy! Joy is confident. Joy is contagious. Joy should be a way of life for the believer because we know that we have the hope of eternal life, we have the assurance that we serve a great big God who walks with us in the joys and sorrows of life. And no matter how tough things get here on earth, we know who ultimately wins. So today, I encourage you to choose joy. Don't just be happy, be joyful. Let your hope be strong in the promises of the Savior. Let's do our best to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:16, "Always be joyful." When we do, we are representing Jesus well.