Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
In the secular world everything is all about what makes any one individual “happy”. We’ve all heard the cliches, such as “If he’s happy, let him alone,” or “If it makes them happy, then why bother them?” Don’t forget we also have “happy meals” and “happy faces”. And, of course in my generation, who could forget the television show, “Happy Days”? In the Christian realm, “joy” should be the goal. Let’s contrast the meanings of the two terms.
What is “happiness”? What does it mean to be “happy”? According to dictionary.com, the term “happy” is an adjective meaning to be “delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person.”
What is joy? From a Christian perspective, I really like the definition of “joy” offered by Pastor Rick Warren. He defines “joy” as “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation” (Warren, 2014, ¶ 3).
What are the differences between “joy” and “happiness? I see three distinctions: First, simply stated, ‘happiness” is about “happenings”, what’s going on in one’s environment. On the other hand, “joy” is based on Jesus Christ, and on having a personal relationship with Him. In other words, happiness is based on the external, while joy is based on the internal. Another difference is that “happiness” is fleeting, while “joy” is permanent. Finally, “joy”, and not “happiness”, is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
“The joy that God speaks of in His Word is something you can count on. It has nothing to do with the circumstances of our lives” (Warren, 2012, p. 33). nor about our feelings. Warren (2012) also reported concerning joy,
It is definitely not about living in denial and ignoring sorrow or pain. Joy is something much deeper, richer, more stable, and more accessible than you might have thought.
That’s the beauty of the joy God offers. You no longer need to live in fear or worry, because God’s joy will always be available to you. In this world you will have trouble, Jesus says. [John 16:33] But you can still take heart. You can still receive joy. You are not dependent on anyone or anything other than God and yourself to know joy (p. 14).
Years ago a former pastor shared an acronym with me about how to have true joy. He said, “to find true JOY, you need to put Jesus first, Others second, and You’re last.” I agree with the pastor’s advice, especially the part about keeping Jesus first. This belief is based on Matthew 6:33 (NKJV), “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Additionally,
Mark 12:30 (NKJV)—”And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.”
What about putting others’ needs above your own? What does that mean? Doesn’t Jesus tell us in Mark 12:31 (NKJV), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”? Yes, Jesus did make that statement. However, one implication from that statement that some people fail to understand is that to love others, we have to love ourselves. We can’t love others until we learn to love and care for ourselves.
Let’s look at what Mark 12:31 does NOT mean. By my saying that one should put others above oneself, I am NOT implying that we should become a “doormat” or a “rescuer”. For those unfamiliar with these two types of personalities, a “doormat”, also known as a “people pleaser” is an individual who has unhealthy boundaries between being kind and helpful, and not allowing others to take advantage of them. “These people have a hard time saying ‘no’ to a request from a loved one. They allow others to walk all over them; hence the term ‘doormat.’ Doormat Syndrome, as it is sometimes called, is a common problem in romantic relationships.” (Wood, 2017, ¶ 1)
What is meant by the term “rescuer”? Rescuers are also known as “fixers”, “enablers”, and “White Knights”. Health Psychology Consultancy (2012) reports “Rescuers are compulsive, often uninvited, helpers who cannot resist the temptation to jump in and try to fix other people’s problems…they come from diverse backgrounds, but they all have the desire or need to save others.” Mathews (2011) reports,
the Rescuer needs to be needed. The Rescuer not only depends on her role to give her a sense of self, but she also depends on it to bridge the gap between self and others. In other words she needs the Rescuer role just as much, probably more, than the rescued needs rescuing. In fact, the Rescuer tends to feel as if her self-esteem has taken a big hit when there is a lag-time between rescues… So, without really paying much attention to it, she launches herself into another search for the next victim in need of rescue (¶ 2).
Another point I would like to make is that some persons do not understand that the love that Jesus spoke of in Scripture includes having healthy limits, or boundaries. Discipline also is a part of love, particularly in regards to raising children. Next week we will look more in-depth at the topic of child discipline. For now, I want to share Scriptures that establish that God’s discipline and parents disciplining children are biblical. Consider the following verses:
- Proverbs 3:11-12 New King James Version (NKJV)
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
- Proverbs 13:24 New King James Version (NKJV)
24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Proverbs 29:15, 17 New King James Version (NKJV)
15 The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
17 Correct your son, and he will give you rest;
Yes, he will give delight to your soul.
Hebrews 12:10-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Revelation 3:19 New King James Version (NKJV)
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Repentance spoken of in Revelation 3:19 shared previously is a major key to finding “joy” in Jesus. Although, I believe many of today’s preachers and prophets water down the Gospel, failing to emphasize the need for all persons to repent as a part of the process of coming to Christ. Scripture is clear that to become a Christian one must repent of his or her sins:
Acts 3:19 New King James Version (NKJV)
19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
Do you possess the joy and love that only comes through Christ? I do. I can’t count the number of times that the joy of Jesus and His love have carried me through difficult days. I remember one of those days was Saturday, February 20, 2016, the day we buried my father Elder Harry Marvin Owens. As a “Daddy’s girl” growing up, of course, I was saddened by my father’s passing. Yet I was able to sing Dad’s favorite hymns and rejoice in the Lord at his funeral knowing that his earthly troubles were over and that I have no doubt he and I will meet again in Heaven. During the funeral I will never forget one of his friends coming up to me, and saying, “You have your father’s spirit. You share the same spirit with your father”. And, that, my friend, is the Holy Spirit, which we each received at the point of our individual spiritual conversions.
Is the Holy Spirit living in you? If not, I encourage you to repent of your sins accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior where you too may experience the full joy and love in your heart that only God can give.
Health Psychology Consultancy (2012, Dec. 19). The rescuer personality (The white knight). Retrieved March 4, 2018 from https://healthpsychologyconsultancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-rescuer-personality-the-white-knight/
Mathews, A. (2011, April 21). The rescuer identity: Who is really saving who? Retrieved March 4, 2018 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/traversing-the-inner-terrain/201104/the-rescuer-identity
Warren, K. (2012). Choose joy: Because happiness isn’t enough. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Choose-Joy-Because-Happiness-Enough/dp/0800722132
Warren, R. (2014, May 21). The definition of joy. Retrieved March 4, 2018 from http://pastorrick.com/devotional/english/the-definition-of-joy
Wood, L. (2017, June 13). Why you shouldn’t be a doormat in a relationship. Retrieved March 4, 2018 from https://www.livestrong.com/article/14685-goal-setting-in-relationships/