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Happiness or Joy?

Sep 27, 2019

This morning when I opened my email, there was an article called, “We’re Getting ‘Happy’ Wrong.” The author, Aytekin Tank, went on to explain why even if you win a million euros, the happiness and excitement that came with winning will quickly fade. He said that being happy is not about reaching a milestone, because our tendency is to adapt to the new normal and then that becomes “the baseline against which further events are judged.” We can wear ourselves out constantly striving for “success” or “happiness.” Tank’s solution is for us to find a new measuring stick that we use to define happiness. His advice was simple: “Here’s the new yardstick: Become aware of what you’re good at and what you like doing, then go do it.” Sounds simple enough. But is it true?

The one thing Tank seems to get right is when he advised us to embrace the process, flipping “our focus from fleeting, external factors to internal ones.” By this he means that as we learn to overcome things we grow in character, thus “becoming the versions of ourselves we want to be as we chase after the things we want to do.” This kind of sounds right, but what he is still missing is that as long as the focus remains on us and what we want and what we do well, we will continue to find happiness only for a time until the situation changes.

The Bible views things from a completely different point of view. In the book of James 1:12 it says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” How is that possible? When our eyes are focused on what God wants to do in our lives, then we know that “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Similar to what Tank said about focusing on character growth, if we keep our eyes focused on God and what HE wants and our purpose in life, trusting that God is in control and has a purpose for everything, then we can remain in His joy.

Elisabeth Elliot is a Christian author and speaker who became well known when her young husband, Jim Elliot, was killed while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca tribe in eastern Ecuador back in 1956. After his death, she returned as a missionary to the very people who killed her husband. Elisabeth learned the meaning of joy in spite of one’s situation. She said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” Circumstances change, but true joy in Christ is eternal. (CompellingTruth.org). That is the difference between eternal joy and temporary happiness.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.

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