Counselors will explain that it is feeling a ‘positive state of being’; it’s when a person feels good and positive about their life. So if you feel like things are going good for you, then you should feel happy. And it stands to reason that if things are not going so well, then you are not feeling happy,
But is there a difference between being happy and having joy, the kind of joy the Bible talks about? It doesn’t seem that joy and happiness are really the same. Happiness is dependent on external things falling into place in our favor, often things that we have no control over.
Joy is not dependent on outside influences. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the angels declared to the shepherds “…I bring good news that will cause great joy for all people.” Luke 2:10 (NIV), they were not promising that everybody’s circumstances were going to be happy. After they saw the baby in the manger, the Shepherds went back to the tedious job of taking care of sheep 24/7. At the same time, King Herod was worried about reports of newborn boy king, and went about killing children. Frequently God’s people have come out on the short end of happy experiences.
Joy is deeper than what life throws at us. God’s kind of joy can give us stability in difficulties and hope in devastating places.
When we sing “Joy to the world! The Lord is come…”, we are declaring that something we desperately need is now here; there is something unseen that is far more real than what we know through our physical senses.
When we look for joy that is greater than human happiness, we are open to the real message of Christmas, that God is with us. We don’t have to figure it out on our own.
Jesus came to give all people who believe and who trust in him, an overcoming life in their current circumstances and in the life to come. Now that is good news.
“…I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”