Encouragement 03-16-05


March 16, 2005
Encouragement for Today 

Joy vs. Happiness
Glynnis Whitwer, Senior Editor P31 Woman, Speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries, editor@proverbs31.org

Key Verse:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4 (NIV)


There are very difficult situations in life that on the surface, seem to offer no reason to be joyful.  In fact, you might even say, "My situation is so terrible that to be joyful would be wrong."

I remember when my husband's mother was in a coma after a brain aneurism.  My life was suspended.  I remember feeling guilty if anything brought me joy.  I thought, "How can I feel joy when she is in the hospital and likely won't recover?"  It was a difficult struggle.

Some of you might feel that same way.  Yet, Scripture is clear about joy.  It is something the Christian is supposed to experience.  And if we choose to believe the Bible is completely true and reliable, we are to have some sense of joy at all times.  Paul said in Philippians 4:4:  "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!"  

What is this joy we are supposed to experience?  Well, it isn't happiness, and confusion arises when get joy and happiness mixed up.  You see, we don't choose happiness; it comes as the result of circumstances.   The root word of happiness is the same root word as "happening."   So, happiness depends on happenings.

Here's an example of experiencing a moment of happiness. 

The poor country pastor was livid when he confronted his wife with the receipt for a $250 dress she had bought.

"How could you do this!" he exclaimed.

"I don't know," she wailed.  "I was standing in the store looking at the dress on sale. Then I found myself trying it on. It was like the Devil was whispering to me, 'Gee, you look great in that dress. You should buy it.'"

"Well," the pastor persisted, "You know how to deal with him!  Just tell him, "Get behind me, Satan!"

"I did!" replied his wife, "but then he said, 'It looks great from back here, too.'"

You might have grinned, laughed out loud or been annoyed that I'm telling a joke in a devotional.  But it was automatic. You didn't choose your response.  It just happened.

Joy on the other hand, is only found in the Lord.  Joy comes partly from a deep, abiding knowledge that God has everything under control.  We can experience joy in spite of our circumstances, when we choose to acknowledge that something good is going to come out of our pain.   But, unless we distinguish joy from happiness, we will not experience the fullness of joy.  To be happy over certain circumstances would be wrong - but it's never wrong to have deep joy.

In spite of your difficult situation today, choose to believe that God is working behind the scenes for your good.  It's where the rubber meets the road.  Do you really believe it?  If you do, then God will fill your heart with unexplainable joy.  Then you can rejoice in the Lord always.

My prayer for today

Heavenly Father, You are the creator and giver of joy.  I praise You for this wonderful gift that brings a sense of rightness in troubling situations.  I confess that I have often chosen worry or fear over joy.  I long for my faith to be deepened, and to trust that You are working things out for my good.  Help me when I depend on circumstances to bring peace and joy.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Application steps:

Identify a worry or concern that has stolen your joy.  Identify your true fears over the situation.  In prayer, place those fears in the hands of God.  Ask Him to show you how He will bring good out of that situation.  Praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness.

Reflection points:

How would you define joy and happiness?

Think of a difficult situation in the past.  How did God use it for your good?

Why do we allow the storms of life to steal our joy?

What can you do to develop the fruit of joy in your life?

Name one area of your life where you can choose joy today.

Power verses:

"Praise be to the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song." Psalm 28: 6-7 (NIV)

"As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15:9-11  (NIV)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

"But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. For surely, O Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield." (Psalm 5:11 NIV)

Additional resources:

P31 Woman Magazine by Proverbs 31 Ministries

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? By Lysa TerKeurst

Becoming a Woman Who Listens to God by Sharon Jaynes

Originally published Wednesday, 16 March 2005.