By Joy Ballard
Are you chasing happiness or finding joy? And what’s the difference? Today I’ll explain my own pursuit of happiness and joy, and what I discovered about God in the process.
Have you ever planned the perfect date or the best family vacation, just to find yourself struggling with disappointment when it doesn’t end up happily ever after?
Chasing happiness is exhausting.
One of my preteens recently has grabbed onto the fact that it is so hard to stay happy. She chases happy moments all day. But what she finds is that she fails at kindness and love because she is human, ending up with a relational mess on her hands.
I resonate with her sentiments. I’m reminded of the brilliant minds that decided happiness was important enough to include the pursuit of it in the Declaration of Independence itself.
In many ways, the pursuit of happiness is woven into the very fabric of our culture and lifestyle. And yet, we live in one of the most depressed and anxious nations in the world.
Perhaps we are pursuing the wrong thing?
The Bible presents a deeper and more lasting word than happiness: joy.
A quick look through the ESV Bible and its use of the word joy is enlightening:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. James 1:2
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. Hebrews 12:2
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
That last verse is the very reason my parents named me Joy, because of the joy that comes after a long night of laboring in childbirth.
Chasing Happiness and Finding Joy
Although similar, happiness and joy are not interchangeable, in my opinion. Happiness is fleeting, but joy can be long-lasting.
I’ve heard it said that joy is something you recognize in hindsight. It’s surprising. You cannot plan joy.
Joy often goes hand in hand with struggle. In fact, I used to think these verses in the Bible were some sort of promise that the pain will be removed so we can get back to a happy, joy-filled state of being.
However, I now believe that it isn’t about getting rid of the struggle. It’s about the ability to hold both pain and joy at the same time. In the struggle, we find hope that God will meet us right in the middle of it.
It’s because of pain that we can experience joy.A Wife Like Me – Joy Ballard
We can fight to be fully present to what we have been called, to deny the numbness of distractions, to love when it’s hardest, and run to Jesus with all our questions and longings–that is when his joy comes crashing in.
Joy is about keeping our eyes on Jesus. Just like you search for your husband in the middle of your kids’ tantrums, or at a hospital waiting room when you don’t know what the news will be, or at the event when you feel insecure. Your eyes meet with his and you feel reassured, seen and known. That’s how we look to Jesus.
Stop chasing happy. Instead, keep your focus and worship on Jesus and his joy will find you.
Wife Step: Be intentional today to change your focus from a search for happiness to seeking Jesus and finding joy along the way.
Joy was born and raised in Mexico, but fell in love with a Minnesota guy. More than a decade, many geographical locations, and four kids later, they are currently settled in the city of Minneapolis, MN. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. Although homeschooling, parenting and helping run their vacation rental take up most of her days, Joy is always finding ways to sneak in time for writing, reading, design and coffee with friends. You can find her posting on Instagram @joy.ballard or @theriverlodgemn. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography
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