The distinction between happiness and joy was driven home by an Akron area boy recently. Happiness is dependent on the circumstances in which one finds himself. “Under the circumstances” one will be happy when everything is going his way, but will be sad or even angry when the circumstances are working against his desires. Joy comes from a proper devotion to God and His kingdom and an understanding that everything is working for the good of that kingdom, whether it is what would make one happy or not.
It all started at the beginning of the NFL playoffs. The young 7 year old boy was beginning to develop an interest in football. Since the Cleveland Browns were not in the playoffs they were not even a factor in what happened next. The boy was watching the game on TV with his father and he began a process to decide his “favorite team”. After a series of his “favorite team” losing he finally decided the Seattle Seahawks would be his favorite team. He saw them defeat the 49ers and was then all excited about the Super Bowl.
Dad was out of town on Super Bowl Sunday, but when he arrived at his destination he found that the Seahawks had won the game handily. He called home to share in the enjoyment of the victory with his son. He had to chuckle when the boy announced that this was the best day ever and it made all of his “worst days ever go away.” Needless to say, the boy was happy.
Then came the Olympics. The boy was cheering on team USA. He would pout when they lost and enjoy moments of exultation when they won. He watched a skiing event that found the Americans missing the podium, he was down. Then the US / Russian Olympic hockey game came on. He was ecstatic when T. J. Oshie finally clinched that one for the US hockey team.
Then came speed skating. He was about to be devastated when the US girl was pushed to the back of the pack during a qualifying heat, until his father explained that she was going to move on to the finals because she was pushed. This all came to a crescendo as the boy sat watching the final heat and the US girl was knocked down by another skater. The frustration had built, and the next sound the father heard was a pencil breaking in half. He looked over at his boy to see him crying and asked sympathetically, “did you break your pencil?”
To which the boy replied with tears flowing freely, “I'm the first kid in the world to break a pencil. I never want to watch the Olympics again.” Needless to say he was angry.This is what it is like when one lives “under the circumstances.”
You can live in joy no matter the circumstances if you set your focus on the kingdom of God, which cannot be defeated no matter how devastating the present set back may seem. Victory for the kingdom of God is not dependent on victory in your life or for any other individual. An understanding that God is not surprised by any trial or tribulation that you are facing and that He is going to use your victories and your defeats to accomplish His purposes gives you the foundation from which you can live a life full of joy.