Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is an inside job. No matter the circumstance, how I feel or what I see. Dr. Steven C. Riser says, “We can make a distinction between joy and happiness: happiness being dependent on external circumstances, while joy is internal, a result of being controlled by the Spirit. Happiness is a feeling dependent on circumstances and usually restricted to moments when life is going well. Joy is an inner serenity of the soul, rooted not in circumstances but in a choice to trust God’s faithfulness, regardless of what is happening externally”. In scripture when James says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3), he most specifically has in mind the trials that come as a consequence of one’s faith in Christ. But, “trials” can also include hardships and sufferings that Christians encounter even as they are following the Lord; unrelated to their public stance as Christians.
But how can I “Count it ALL joy” when the pain is so real. Being on this health roller coaster with my husband has taught me, choosing joy does not mean that we pretend to be happy when we are not. , Choosing Joy is realizing that we serve a God who is bigger than our circumstance, and focusing on GOD instead of our circumstance causes the well of gratitude within us to overflow. Focusing on God causes us to keep in the forefront of our minds that God is all powerful and he makes ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). By focusing on God we are encouraged to remember “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). By focusing on God we are reminded “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). And even on those “Job” days where one team of doctors, after another team of doctors, after another team of doctors come in with bad news, after bad news, after bad news and choosing joy is hard we still choose joy over despair, because 1 Peter 5:7 says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
Choosing joy transforms your life, and therefore all those you love and those who are watching how you handle adversity. I’m amazed at the number of people whom I’ve never met who reach out to me and tell me how my husband and I have encouraged them. Some people have shared their challenging work situations. Some people have shared their challenging marital conditions. Walking out what you say you believe is an awesome responsibility that has far reaching influence and impact. People are ALWAYS watching you.
Choosing joy develops the attitude of gratitude. The thread of gratitude will become a lifeline to joy. Appreciate one thing, then another, then another, and pretty soon you will experience joy rising within you.
There isn’t a quantum leap to joy. I must choose it moment by moment. Choosing joy is a habit that I cultivate regularly.