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FAITH: The Difference in Happiness and Joy

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.) 

One does not have to be an astute observer of the situation in our society today to realize that almost anyone that is observed is not a happy person.  We have more, go more, do more than any generation prior to the current one and no one seems to be really happy.  Oh, there are moments when people will laugh and party but when life settles down, they find that they are not really happy.  While there are people who are truly happy, they are in the minority while the majority are unable to find this elusive emotion of “happiness.” 

What all of this proves is that “things, achievements, position, power, prestige and riches are not what brings true happiness because they are part of what the world offers.  Man has the ability to produce happiness, and there is certainly nothing wrong with being happy, but only God can produce inner Joy and Peace.  Only He possesses the power and ability to bring true peace, joy and happiness to one’s soul.  Now, let me explain the difference in PEACE, JOY and HAPPINESS.

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Happiness is brought from what one experiences that is pleasant and fulfilling and fun.  It is an EMOTION and it can disappear just as quickly as it arrives.  My father put it this way as he inscribed it in his Bible: “Happiness is external; joy is internal.”  When we speak of joy, included in that is the concept of peace of which there is very little in today’s world.  Peace is not the lack of hostilities; it is having internal and soul felt assurance and joy in the midst of hostilities and trouble.  Happiness fails when something happens to interrupt that emotion because emotions are temporary and can change on a dime.  

Let me illustrate the frailty of happiness:  I once knew a young man who was one of the most corrupt people I ever saw.  I worked for his father and therefore became very aware of how this young man was.  There was nothing that he would not do and he thought that it was all funny.  Time, space nor necessity allows me to elucidate the situation for the reader but, take my word for it, he was a “mess.”  Every few months he would buy himself a new car (they were very wealthy).  So, he decided he wanted a new Lincoln Continental and, in those days, it was one of the most expensive cars one could buy.  And it was very popular at the time.  He went to the car dealer in that city and ordered a beautiful white Lincoln Continental.  The day arrived when the car was shipped to the dealer and they prepared it for delivery and called him to come get it.  Away he went with a couple of his wild buddies tagging along.  The keys were presented and he and his friends very proudly drove off the lot.  He was very happy!…very happy!  As he entered the main thoroughfare, a woman in an old van hit him broadside and totaled that new Lincoln!  He had not driven it fifty yards!  Do you think he was happy?  I don’t think so!  His happiness was gone in a fraction of a second and he was filled with rage.  Happiness is an emotion which can leave as quickly as it came.  But today’s world is more concerned with being happy that they are with anything else. It seems that people cannot get enough of the “things” of the world and when they can’t have everything they want, they are not happy so they fitfully strive to possess whatever they think will complete them.  They find that it won’t work.  They need something deeper and more profound than anything the world can offer.

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Joy and Peace, however, are quite different.  They stabilize a person when the “happiness” vanishes.  Joy and peace will take a person through the deepest of trials with a calm assurance that Someone much higher than them has the situation in hand.  And if tears flow, they are not because of panic or fear.  Human emotion is a fact of life and momentarily sadness is normal.  But, the person who possesses the One Person who can bring joy and peace find that the storm is much easier to weather than if they were depending only on being happy.  

If a loved one dies, happiness is gone.  If a life dream is shattered, happiness is gone.  If a career fails for some reason, happiness is gone.  If the doctor gives a threatening diagnosis, happiness is gone.  But remember, inner Joy and Peace will take over where the emotion of happiness fails if one possesses a relationship with the One who can bring them, The Lord Jesus Christ.  Joy and peace also include happiness but happiness alone does not necessarily contain joy and peace.  While I think the Lord wants us to be happy, He also gives us something deeper and more profound to take us through the times when “happiness has fled.

 As my father, who was a very wise man, wrote in his Bible: Happiness is external; Joy is internal.  I think I opt of Joy and Peace don’t you?

Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 48 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 30 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com 

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