Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
Psychology Today recently summarized 20 years of scientific research on happiness. They found that children with imaginary friends, married people, Oscar winners, and smiling baseball players tend to be happier than the average person. However, people who consciously make the search for, and attainment of, happiness a pivotal goal in their lives are less happy than others 1
Jesus taught about how the gospel causes joy. He did not say happiness. What is the difference?
The Greek word for joy means cheerfulness, calm delight, or gladness. Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness. Joy is more of a state of mind than an emotion. Unlike happiness, it does not dependent on our circumstances or mood. Joy appears 88 times in the Old Testament in 22 books and 57 times in the New Testament in 18 books. Joy is a common theme throughout Scripture.
Romans 15:13 (NIV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But Jesus does not promise happiness:
John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Matthew 16:24 (NIV) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus does not promise that we will be happy; however, He brings us joy. The source of Christian joy is revealed: Jesus is the basis of our joy. In a Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown had trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, so Linus said, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.”
Unfortunately, some Christians seem to have the same problem as Charlie Brown. We can find a lot to criticize when we should be lifting up our Lord and Savior. We are told to rejoice, pray, and to give thanks in every situation.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
One of the greatest phrases in all of Scripture is “in Christ Jesus.” Our joy is in Jesus. The Holy Spirit produces joy. Joy is a product of Christ-likeness. When we seek God through His Word and prayer, we will receive joy! Thank God that joy is something He wants us to have!
C.S. Lewis explained that we look for happiness and contentment in the wrong places.
“Our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word of God and in the world. Are you seeking the joy that only God can give, or are you settling for the passing happiness of this world? Do you realize that the Lord wants you to have joy in this life and in the new heavens and the new earth?
Heavenly Father, how we bless and thank You for the glad tidings of great joy that were given to all people. Thank You for Jesus and the joy and peace that floods the hearts of all who have found in Him the rock of their Salvation. Amen.