Happiness vs. Joy

I am still thinking about broken hearts. And how common it is to try to avoid them—especially as a parent. Your child has a bad teacher, and you want to move him to a new class. Your daughter doesn’t make the team, so you want to call her coach. Your son is picked last. Your daughter doesn’t get invited to a birthday party.
My heart breaks every time I think of how many times my children’s hearts have already been broken and of all the ways their hearts have yet to break.
And I have to remind myself that I can’t spare them. If I get them out of the class of a bad teacher, how will they learn to deal with a bad boss someday? If I rescue them from not getting invited to a party, how will they deal with not getting into the college they want to go to?
Life is full of disappointments—there is simply no escaping them. But life is also full of great beauty and joy and if I spare them pain, I also spare them joy.
I think that a lot of times we confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is about good feelings. You are happy when you make a team. When you get a new toy. When your team wins the Super Bowl. But happiness is fleeting. It can’t really be depended on because that toy that made you happy yesterday? Today you don’t even know where it is.
Joy is different. Joy is deep and rich and always grounded in pain. Joy is a resurrection word. Joy does not depend on things because joy is about relationships. Joy comes out of the knowledge that God will win in the end because death does not get the final word. Joy knows that even if there is pain now, there can still be joy. Because God is in charge. And we can rejoice, even if we are going through cancer or we got a bad grade or our family is in trouble.
That is why Paul—who was beaten and imprisoned and lived with chronic pain—can say, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice.”
This is what I want to teach my broken-hearted kids–and my broken-hearted self. That rather than trying to avoid life and all its pain, they and we can go through life, knowing that there is nowhere we can go where God isn’t.
Because knowing that….that is true joy.


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