Happiness ebbs and flows based on our changing circumstances. A new baby or grandchild is born, and we’re all smiles. We win a free vacation, and we’re ecstatic! The boss gives a big raise just when we need the extra money, and we’re elated. But the euphoria is only temporary. Inevitably something changes and takes our happiness with it. The baby gets sick; our vacation gets rained on; our job is eliminated by a corporate merger. The positive feeling is fleeting. At best we’re left feeling empty, and at worst, even angry.
So how do we get our happiness back when the situation changes? We can’t wish happiness back. We can’t chase it. Trying harder to regain it only produces frustration. If circumstances alone make us happy, then our situation has to change in order for us to be happy again. Yet, that’s precisely the reason we’re unhappy. We don’t, and never will, have control over the things that make for “don’t worry, be happy.”
Happiness is circumstantial and elusive, but joy is not circumstantial. We can have joy even when we’re not happy. Some may hear Christians talking about joy and think that joy is just a religious word for happiness. But joy differs from happiness. If the situation is right, anyone can experience happiness. Even people who don’t know God or who curse God can be happy. But they don’t have joy, for that blessing in life has a totally different source.
According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit produces joy. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, emphasis added).
Isn’t it interesting that joy is mentioned immediately after love? Obviously God doesn’t want us to live depressed, cranky, bitter lives. He knows that happiness is fleeting, so through the Spirit, He gives us supernatural joy that transcends our circumstances. Joy is a beautiful gift that accompanies salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a gift imparted by the Holy Spirit to our innermost being.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.