Earlier this week, a friend shared an article with me about maintaining lasting happiness. Since my friend thought the article was useful, I agreed to read it. After all, we can all benefit from learning positive techniques to better ourselves, right?
According to the article, psychological studies over the past several years have consistently shown many of us are dissatisfied with our lives and depressed due to daily pressures, stressful life circumstances, money concerns or family strife. The article’s author followed the analysis by giving several suggestions on how to maintain happiness: act happy even if you don’t feel it, indulge more frequently in pampering yourself and focus on the things you have and not on the things you don’t.
The article, although well-meaning, seems to provide little comfort for anyone who has suffered with long-term situational depression or difficult moments in life. I know, at least for me, the solutions the author suggested to maintain happiness rarely ever equal anything lasting. However, I will concede to the fact that feelings associated with experiencing happiness can temporarily relieve mental anguish. I also agree there are benefits to filling our lives with encouraging people and things that reinforce positivity and improve our general sense of wellbeing. But if happiness is temporary, what is long lasting?
Why the Difference between Happiness and Joy Matters
As a follower of Christ, I have learned over the years that happiness is a byproduct of joy and a renewed mind, meaning happiness is a product of what resides in the deepest recesses of our hearts (Romans 12:2). I may seem too picky about separating the terms “happiness” and “joy” which most people swap out interchangeably; however, these terms are starkly different from each other. It’s important to recognize and discuss these differences within Christian circles as well as with non-believing friends to discover lasting fulfillment in our lives.
Like anything we choose to make a primary focus in life, “happiness” can become an idol, which, like a spoiled, needy child, constantly demands attention. I believe this is why so many people who seek permanent happiness outside of spiritual fulfillment in Christ never find it. Life happens. Things go wrong. We experience great sorrows. Suddenly, happiness becomes non-existent.
Just as happiness is a byproduct of joy, joy is a byproduct of the One who lives within me. It is not dependent on my circumstances or emotions of the moment. I have joy so that I may bless others and wear it as a living testament of a life changed by the love, mercy and grace of Jesus. It is my identity in Christ, and when I use the gift of joy to bless others, I find the true meaning of long-lasting joy and fulfilling happiness.
When I use the gift of joy to bless others, I find the true meaning of long-lasting joy and fulfilling happiness.
Personal Lessons Learned
A couple of years ago, I experienced several painful sorrows. Those hard moments defined the weakest and most human aspects of my life. During that time, I forgot my identity. Although my happiness was completely gone for several long weeks and months, I never truly lost my joy and hope in Christ for a new day just beyond the dark clouds.
It is likely many of us have faced or will face hard times at least once in our lives. If you are struggling to find joy in your circumstances, you are not alone. Keep going. There is hope just beyond your clouds of sorrow.
Peace, love and joy to you, dear readers.
The In-Place Missionary