I think joy is commonly misunderstood. Joy and happiness are two different realities. In my experience most of us cannot explain how these two are different. I can have happiness without joy and joy without happiness.
Happiness is an emotion. I am happy when… and you fill in the blank. I can also say I am not happy when this or that happens. It is based on something happening to me. And mostly it is out of my control. Say for example, when a friend calls I am happy and when he doesn’t I am sad.
Joy is a state of being. It includes the arc of human emotions. Joy is enjoying a constant sense of well-being. It allows us to feel what is appropriate to feel. It is teaches us to understand our feelings as prophetic gifts. Joy has nothing to prove or manipulate and allows us to be humble.
With this constant sense of well-being, established on the rock of Christ, I can feel what I feel without having to say, “You shouldn’t feel like that. Don’t be sad or angry because emotions like that open you up to the icky messy thing of pain. It’s safer if you just toss that under the rug.”
Joy allows us to live in the present moments of life. With joy I no longer need to excuse my past or live in an idealistic delusion of the future.
And despair is joy’s opposite.
Jesus had this thing down. Joy empowered him to use the gamut of his emotions with transforming love. Joy for Jesus said, “It will be ok, you are in the Father’s hands, don’t worry.” Let’s look to him and learn. That is if you believe in that sort of thing.
-Influenced by Dallas Willard and Henri Nouwen