My son was home on Spring Break not too long ago and he was asking us about the Fruit of the Spirit one night. Before he really asked a question, I ticked them off for him. I don’t know what I was thinking but you know how it happens. You don’t think about it anymore. You just list them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You even throw the law bit in for good measure at the end. I know I did that day.
He nodded and then asked a pretty good question. He asked for the difference between happiness and joy. This question wasn’t new for me but I was a little startled to hear it from my twenty year old. He said he had the others pretty well figured out (his words, not mine). After a quick prayer for guidance, I sat down with my son to share my take on joy.
Happiness is an immediate feeling that satisfies your need for the moment, I explained. It is good to be happy with your life, your job, your school. Strive for happiness but always remember it is dependent on circumstance and not 100% within your control. For example, I told him, if you come back from class to find everything gone in your dorm room, your happiness meter is probably going to be close to zero. He agreed since at the moment, practically his whole life is in his dorm room or his car.
On the other hand, joy is an element independent of daily life. It is rooted in your walk with God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The joy you have from fellowship with God begins as a tiny seed in your heart and grows each day through prayer and time spent with Him in His Word. The Holy Spirit nurtures it to produce the very thing that sustains you when your very world appears to be falling apart.
When the sun rises on a new day to reveal rain clouds, the blossom of joy will yield hope instead of fear. It allows the believer to stand firm under the impending storm with peace, in preparation for what may come, knowing God is with him through it all. After those storm clouds pass, praise and thanksgiving lift high to the heavens in great relief and yes, joy.
Oh, the joy of the Lord is an awesome thing.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.