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Chasing Joy

by Andrew Stevens

 “…The data showed that chasing happiness can make people unhappy. And what really struck me was this: the suicide rate has been rising around the world, and it recently reached a 30-year high in America. Even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There’s an emptiness gnawing away at people, and you don’t have to be clinically depressed to feel it.”

– Emily Esfahani Smith at TED2017
There’s more to life than being happy

What makes you happy? Is it a thing? An activity? A place? An achievement? 

This is a question that I have been asking myself.  Where do I find my happiness?  I want to be happy.  I want my family to be happy.  The problem occurs when I find myself depending on that happiness.  More to the point, There’s an issue when I find myself depending on that thing that I think will make me happy.  

I end up chasing Happiness when I should be chasing Joy.

Now you may be thinking, “Aren’t those the same thing?” The definition of joy says:
“the emotion of great delight or happiness ….”.  

And one of the synonyms of happiness is the word joy. 

But come on over to Andrew’s Definitions of Life and let me explain.When God said to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you,” and Solomon asked for wisdom, God was so impressed that he gave Solomon everything:  wealth and honor and no equal among kings.  Solomon had it all.  And yet, the second verse of Ecclesiastes (which most people believe was written by Solomon himself) says 

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

The message is pretty easy to understand.  All the riches and honor and wisdom in the world comes to absolutely nothing.  So what else is left?

I think Solomon discovered the difference between having happiness and finding joy.  When I chase happiness and catch it, it lasts for only a moment.  The thing breaks.  The activity ends.  I have to leave that special place.  What I caught is temporary; the happiness fades and I find myself back to square one, thinking, 

“If only____________________, then I would be happy.”  

Happiness isn’t a bad thing, but it’s short term.  It’s an emotion that comes and goes.  Happiness can be faked on the outside while we lose hope on the inside.

Joy, however, runs deeper than happiness.  Joy is more a permanent state of mind rather than a fleeting emotion.  There can be happiness in joy, but joy doesn’t depend on happiness. Joy focuses on the eternal.  The intangible. Joy understands that life is full of good and bad but it chooses to hold on to the good.  Joy can be a light in the darkness knowing that this isn’t all there is.  Joy is found in the hope of something more.  True joy can’t be faked.

So what are you chasing?  More importantly, who are you chasing? Are you depending on the temporary things in your life to make you happy or the eternal One to give you Joy?

Don’t get Joy and Happiness mixed up. Find that “Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, down in the depths of your heart.”  

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