I am weary of people who go around promoting the Christian life as a happy proposition. The thought of having to be victorious over my sin in the name of happiness troubles me. I don`t reject the occasional glass of glee, it’s just that when you`ve screwed things up as many times as I have in the name of happiness, you realize that it is not good for your soul. Joy, on the other hand, is an entirely different proposition as it has to do with the acquisition or expectation of good.
When I saw that happiness eluded me more often than not, I opted for joy. Before you go thinking that I am some super-spiritual Christian, I didn´t just happen to stumble upon this discovery one sad day. I can`t really say that it was a moment of enlightening breakthrough, but more like an arduous process in the school of hard knocks. It has been a long hard-fought lesson, one that I haven`t fully learned to appreciate. The discovery of joy came as a last resort in my sin because it gave me hope as it was presented to me in the darkest times of my life. Happiness has come to represent what I must do to be in good spirits. But Joy rests solely on God`s mercy and grace. I have to work real hard at being happy, but joy is for serial sinners like me. Happiness is a feeling, but joy is the assurance of God`s goodness, therefore, I can be in a sour mood and still have joy.
When I saw that happiness eluded me more often than not, I opted for joy.
Hebrews 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Did Jesus have a smile on His face as He agonized on the cross? Was He happy? I don`t think so. But in the name of joy, He despised the shame. Joy represents all the good that God has in store for us but if you go for it, there will be some sadness involved and you may be asked to endure some shame. This is not a price we pay but a cross to bear as it has much to do with believing God`s scandalous grace in the face of opposition. This cross is believing that God loves you when you know you don`t deserve to be loved. The presence of evil when you would do good is overwhelming. But you don`t give in to the condemning lies that would shame you back to a life of religious bondage–you rest in the fact that Jesus paid it all.
Happiness was my first reaction to grace. But I soon learned that grace without joy is frustration. I learned that there was more to be sad about in grace than happy. I`m not trying to be a party pooper in the name of solemn religion, neither am I saying that grace thrives in our sadness. I am talking about true laughter–the laughter of Isaac. This laughter is not based on the way I feel (at times it does bring me a feel-good sensation). It is founded upon the fact that we are not the children of the bondwoman but of the free (Gal. 4:31). How can there be sadness and laughter in the same heart? How can a sad heart laugh? It laughs as it is overwhelmed by the freeing truth of the gospel; the fact that it is unconditionally safe in the arms of Jesus. A sad heart laughs when it has been conquered by–I will have mercy and not sacrifice.
Joy will accomplish things for you that happiness cannot. Such is the power of joy that it affords us the strength to continue the course when everything around us is falling apart. In this case, happiness will likely forsake and mock you, but you will keep the faith as long as joy is your companion.