It is no secret that a lot of people today are unhappy. An article published by NBC News in 2020 stated that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy. This is the lowest finding in 50 years. We only need to watch the news to see the amount of anger and frustration being displayed in the violence and unrest around the world. We see uncivil behavior in the interactions of people who should be working together for the greater good, but would rather hurl insults at one another. How could anyone be happy amid all this turmoil? No wonder there is a mental health crisis in our society.
So what is happiness and how do we find it? The dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment, the feeling that results from situations and experiences that are pleasurable, a result of success or good fortune”. But if we depend on our own resources and circumstances to bring us happiness and joy, we will surely be disappointed. The things of this world are unpredictable at best; devastating at their most cruel.
Worldly possessions, achievements and the people in our lives are blessings from God that make us happy. Happiness depends on what we have, but in stark contrast, joy relies on who we are in Christ. True joy is rooted in our relationship to God. It is the result of knowing and trusting God. It is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives. Joy goes beyond the rolling waves of circumstances. It is not dependent on other human beings or earthly things. It is rooted in who God is.
In the story of Job, we see how assurance of God’s presence can sustain us through times of suffering. Job was stripped of all his earthly possessions and his beloved children; he suffered from physical afflictions. But he never lost his faith in God. He never forgot who God was. Job declares “For God is so wise and so mighty….. Without warning, he moves the mountains. If he commands it, the sun won’t rise and the stars won’t shine…He alone has spread out the heavens…He performs miracles without number.” (Job 9:4-10, NLT) He confidently states, “…I know that my Redeemer lives…” (Job 19:25, NLT). God ultimately restored his family and possessions, blessing him even greater than before. These blessings brought him happiness, but his joy was in God.
Charles Spurgeon writes “Believers are not dependent upon circumstances. Their joy comes not from what they have, but from what they are; not from where they are, but from whose they are; not from what they enjoy, but from that which was suffered for them by their Lord.” Do you believe that in times of difficulty, when happiness seems out of reach, you are still loved and cared for by God? This is the meaning of true joy.