I have been thinking on this a lot. I have been asking people what they think about it, too.
What is happiness?
I think happiness is an emotion. And I have learned that emotions are temporary. Ask anyone who has ever had a fight with someone they loved. The anger is real and fiery – and by the next morning, it almost always vanishes. Any remnants are just smoldering, and everything is much more manageable the next day. If such a powerful, all-consuming feeling like anger is temporary, then to me, it stands to reason that happiness is just as fleeting.
So, why pursue happiness if it is just an emotion?
I think what we are really pursuing is joy. But I think joy comes from inside. Sometimes I do not always have The Joy (thank you, JLN), but it’s something that I am working on. Joy is more useful, I think, than happiness because joy is finding happiness in any situation and seeing the good in it. Sometimes I may not be smiling during these difficult times, but in my heart, I can see the good and I can be thankful. Unfortunately for me, I struggle with joy during difficult times (as many people do, I am sure). I am a striver. I am always looking for the next thing to do, the next place to go. Figuring out the next thing is always on my mind. But perpetually looking around the corner is not helpful in my quest for joy. Striving means that I am not finding the joy in what God has provided and it means, for me, that I am looking for satisfaction outside of the Lord.
But, to be clear, I don’t think that happiness is bad or wrong or un-acheivable. I think happiness is very real, but is a by-product of joy. But if you look at other uses for the word “happy” – it can also be synonymous for words like luck and fortune. But luck and fortune are arbitrary events that are outside of my control. And happy also describes quick, thoughtless action – ie. “trigger-happy.” If someone is trigger happy, there is a connotation that they are thinking very little about the consequences of their actions – they are not considering the long-term effects.
When I have joy in my soul, I am happy. Maybe not always happy. You know, like how a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square?
I looked up joy in the dictionary and it actually had a verb tense which said: to rejoice, to be glad. You know what’s interesting? Happy doesn’t have a verb tense definition in the dictionary. I can HAVE a happy mood, but I cannot DO happy. According to the dictionary, I can joy in the Lord. Sure, it’s an old way of using the word joy, but it’s interesting to me that it is both a noun and a verb.
So, all of this reminded me that the apostles Peter and Paul both say to rejoice in all things, even though we suffer now, we know that there is a salvation that awaits us. And both urge us to find joy in suffering, because we are refined in fire.
As I mentioned, it is sometimes difficult for me to be joyful in my life sometimes. I don’t think this is unique, but I think it is often exacerbated by the fact that I sometimes have such a short-term view on life. I forget that my joy is not in finding material happiness in the next 30 days, but rather, my joy is in the Lord and from the Lord. He is eternal and I need to think of life in eternal terms and not in short-term time frames. But I am tired and I have a feeling that this will now balloon into further thoughts on eternal vs. immediate mindsets… So, more on that later.