There are two things I have learned very recently. Joy is not the same thing as happiness. And seeking happiness is not the key to living a great life. I believe that most people believe the same misconception that I once believed – that our ultimate goal in life is to find true happiness, when in reality, it’s far from it. Happiness is not something that is guaranteed to any of us. It is not something that, if we do everything right the way we are supposed to, we will automatically reach this state of “happiness.” Happiness is temporary. It is something that comes and goes – that fluctuates with each event and moment that passes by. It is not an emotion that we can grasp on to and keep ourselves in constantly. It is fickle. It doesn’t last. I promise you that I’m not trying to tell you that happiness does not exist. It does. I’m just trying to say that we should not constantly strive for it as our sole purpose and goal in life, because we will never reach it fully if we are constantly seeking after it.
Why do I say that happiness is temporary? Well think of what happens in your own life. You go and buy something new. At first it is the most amazing thing and it makes you so happy that you couldn’t possibly imagine ever getting tired of it. But then as time goes on, it’s novelty wears off. You see it every day. Use it every day. Are around it every day. It’s kind of old now and old things aren’t really that exciting. Your happiness level starts to wane. Then before you know it, you’re seeking something else new to elevate you back up to that level of “happiness.”
We practice this pattern with everything in our lives whether we like to admit it or not. We do it with material objects. With jobs. With people. With relationships. With pets. With anything really. Because in reality, everything that was once new, will become old, and whatever is old is simply not that exciting. So we continue the cycle, seeking out new thing after new thing after new thing, but yet we can never be truly happy with any one thing. Because things will ALWAYS get old, and there will ALWAYS be something new to replace it with. This is why happiness is temporary and why it is ultimately based upon outward circumstances. So the truth is, we will never be fully happy because the circumstances that surround us are constantly changing so our happiness levels will always be fluctuating.
But here’s the difference about joy. Joy is unchanging because joy is not based upon our changing circumstances, but rather it is a constant choice that we must inwardly make daily to be. Joy is contentment. Joy is saying that, “yes, this may be old, but I am still content with it as part of my life.” Joy is a choice of being happy despite our circumstances. It says in the bible that we must be joyful always (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and Paul in Philippians 4:11-12 states that the secret to his happiness is to learn to be content in all circumstances, whether in plenty or in want.
We can be happy without having the latest and greatest things. We can be happy during times of trouble and grief. We can be happy though our outer circumstances may not bring us the kind of happiness we are seeking. How? By having joy. By being joyful always and in every circumstances. By having an attitude of cheerfulness in all that we do, whether it may be trying or easy. Once we begin to take on this attitude of joy that does not fluctuate according to our circumstances, we will begin to find the kind of peace and happiness that is much deeper and satisfying in our hearts.
This is the difference between happiness and joy. And we must choose purposefully to be joyful. But happiness? It’s something that just happens and it’ll come and go as it pleases. But if we can choose to be joyful, we can remain in that constant peaceful state of mind that will bring deeper joy to our lives.
Today I am choosing to be joyful. I am choosing to practice joy in all I do, whether it is something I enjoy doing or not. Let’s all choose to be joyful despite our circumstances. Sure, we may have bad days or days when we are filled with depression or anger, but we can choose to rise above it and be joyful regardless. To see that our lives are filled with many other blessings and choose to see these blessings above our immediate troubling circumstances. We can choose joy despite our lives not being exactly where we had planned for them to be. We can choose joy even though we aren’t “happy.” Joy is much more than a simple emotion of happiness. Joy is inward peace and gratitude and those qualities are far greater than mere happiness.
How can you practice joy today? Maybe you can choose to be joyful at your job today even though you dislike working there? Be a joyful employee. Be a joyful representative. Work joyfully, as though you are not working for anyone or even yourself, but for the Lord instead. Maybe you can be joyful in your relationship or marriage. Choose to find joy in your partner rather than waiting for better circumstances to arise so that you will find happiness with them. Be joyful NOW. Not later on. Maybe you can be joyful with your children. Or your parents. Or a neighbor. Or a friend. There are plenty of opportunities to practice and choose joy. And I guarantee when you begin to choose it more often, your happiness level will also begin to rise.
I, myself, am starting to choose joy because it is a far greater lasting feeling than happiness and I do not want to have to wait on my circumstances to get better in order for me to feel happiness or contentment. I choose to be happy by practicing joy in all circumstances of my life.
The Self Love Daily Challenge: Choose joy over happiness. Be joyful in all circumstances.