Remember that old song, “I’ve got a joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart, to stay?” I thought of it recently when my Sunday school was discussing the difference between joy and happiness. We’re studying 1 John and the topic of joy came up because John wrote to believers this about fellowship and joy (1 John 1:3-4):
“We proclaim to you
what we have seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”
Our teacher Tricia Baumgartner said there is a difference between happiness and joy Happiness is based on our circumstances and circumstances can change. Joy is based on the hope we have for our well-being in Jesus Christ.
(I started singing in my head, “And I’m so happy, so very happy, I have the love of Jesus down in heart to stay.” According to my husband, my classmates will be glad I didn’t sing out loud.)
God wants us to have joy in Him. “The loss of joy is no small thing,” Tricia noted. “Some of us really struggle with hanging on to our joy.”
That’s me. Ever the worrier. Ever missing out on the joy of today by wallowing in the “what-if” of tomorrow or the next day or the next. Nothing is too far out to cause me to send it spinning around and around inside my brain. What my sister Pam calls “monkey chatter.”
So today I’m thinking about what gives me joy. Not happiness. Joy.
The ocean. I love the beach and I love to stare at the water, watching it pound the shore. I love the sound of it. I love the smell of it. I love the feel of the water and the sand between my toes and the seagulls soaring overhead. I see God’s hand everywhere I look.
The wind in the tree branches. That rustling sound of leaves fluttering in the breeze calms my soul.
My grandchildren. Everything about them. Their grand imaginations. Their inquisitiveness. Their innocence. Their joy in discovering things we’ve long taken for granted. Their funny little voices and the way one calls tornadoes potatoes. Their sweet hugs and kisses. (Don’t get me wrong, I have this same joy in loving my husband, son, and daughter, but little kids are the stuff sweetness is made of. Even when they’re grumpy and demanding and refuse to fall asleep.)
Novels. Reading fiction. I could do this twenty-four-seven. I’ll never read all the books waiting to be read, worlds waiting to be explored, and new ways of thinking and seeing to be learned.
Writing. This is right near the top of the joy list. I fall into a fictive world that becomes so real and so consuming every time I begin to write that I sometimes would like to stay there with my friends. It’s an added perk that they sometimes do what I want them to do, for the sake of the story, but frequently, they have minds of their own and don’t hesitate to strike out on their own. More joy.
What do all these joys come from? That’s the ultimate question. They come from God. He made the ocean, the trees, the breeze, and beautiful grandchildren. He gave me the gift of writing. He created everything in nature that astounds us and gives us pleasure. No further proof is needed that God loves us and wants us to have joy. He sacrificed his only son so that we could be forgiven and spend eternity with Him. That’s some serious joy.
We left Sunday school with a cheat sheet for how to wrestle joy to the ground and hang on to it when times are difficult. Here they are:
- Pray (all the time, everywhere);
- Fellowship with other Christians (more than Sunday morning in the pew);
- Read scripture (read the Bible often, but also have your ‘go-to’ scriptures that help you on tough days);
- Attitude of gratitude. Count your blessings and thank God for them;
- and remember: When I am weak, he is strong.” (Paraphrase 2 Corinthians 12: 10).
Laura Mick offers this advice (consider saying it aloud when necessary): “Get out of my sandbox, Satan!”
What are the joys for which you are thankful today? Share them with me in the comments below. What would you add to the cheat sheet?