These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full —John 15:11
There is a difference between joy and happiness and it’s important that we know the difference. Both are positive states but joy is direct and happiness is circumstantial. By circumstantial, I mean that it is the result of circumstances. Since happiness is the result of circumstances, it is dependent upon circumstances which, of course, can change and over which we have little control. But more than than that happiness is affected by our perception of circumstances. So there is a subjective element to happiness. Two people in the same circumstances may be experiencing different levels of happiness depending on their attitude and perception of those circumstances.
Joy, on the other hand, is a direct state. It flows from the residence of Christ within us. Because of that it is not dependent on anything but His presence. Since He promises His presence to be real and permanent so too is joy: real and permanent. That’s why it surpasses understanding. Not only because it can exist in the midst of trying circumstances, but because it doesn’t require our perfect perception. We don’t need to understand the nature of its source or its power for us to feel its wonder.
Yet joy can increase or decrease. We are created to be in relationship with God. That is our purpose. It becomes possible with our new birth, and it grows as we abandon all else and focus on Him. When we move from spectator at the game and step up to the plate our joy increases. When we swing at the ball, our joy increases. When we move from being an occasional pinch hitter, to a regular every day player, our joy increases.
Happiness is a good thing. But joy is spectacular. It is a deep sense that all things are right. We have a right to pursue happiness; but finding the joy that is in Christ comes when we abandon our search for self pleasure and commit to Him and His goals. He came that joy may be possible, but more that it might remain and be full. We should settle for nothing less.