Lately, a number of my friends have had birthdays – it seems that February and March are just filled with them, including my own on Feb. 19th. And today, my brother-in-law, Randy, is celebrating his. This morning, as I was about to send him a birthday message, I started thinking about the words I was going to use. Of course, our traditional greeting to those celebrating their special day includes the words, “Happy Birthday!” But rather than just extend a regular warm wish to them, I always try to add something personal and for quite a period of time now, I have found myself including something about “joy” in my message.
In fact, it’s kind of automatic for me at this point. But way back when, I wondered why I so much preferred the word “joy” instead of camping on the word “happy.” So I studied the two words when I was in seminary and found out something that has stuck with me throughout the years.
You see, “happy” connotes something that is circumstantial, such as the day you celebrate your birthday. Or when you experience something great and your mood improves as a result. Maybe it is a good review at work, or you win the lottery, or you save some money at the store, paying less than you thought you would for something you purchased. Maybe your son or daughter won an important ball game or had a great report card! All of these examples are times that we could refer to a person as “happy.” That is, events occurred that resulted in your happiness for some period of time.
On the other hand, a much more intense sense of feeling is “joy.” Unlike happiness, joy is not a circumstantial emotion. It transcends the current situation – in fact, it is an overall condition that permeates your very being. It is rock solid – something that is almost in your DNA – not limited to those times when you experience happiness. Joy is a state of mind, and even more important, a condition of the heart. Joyful!
While I know that most people don’t dwell on the specific meanings of words, the word studies and original languages that you learn in seminary make it almost second nature to think about and break down the meanings of words. So when are we truly joyful?
That’s easy – it’s when you have the love of Christ in your heart and you decide to live your life in such a way that you are full of joy. The verse for this evening is from the Gospel of John, and includes words that Jesus Himself spoke. We are told, in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” This verse is one that is frequently used in weddings. The love that God the Father has for His Son, Jesus, is the same kind of demonstrated love that Jesus has for us; and that we are to have for one another – especially between husbands and wives. Of course, Jesus is the model of behavior that we are to emulate during our time on this earth.
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants us to experience His joy in us and that our joy is complete in Him. My prayer is that you will practice a posture of joy and that you will order your life in such a way as to experience happiness, but more than that, JOY! Have a joyful day in the Lord, grace and peace…