20. The pursuit of happiness
Yes, it is in the Declaration of Independence. The pursuit of happiness is one of the 3 "unalienable rights" which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect. And, while that is all fine and good, God wants something greater and more lasting than happiness for us.
What God truly wants for us is joy in him.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11
There is a difference between the two words. Happy is used in the Bible only a handful of times, while joy is used over 300. So what is that difference?
Happiness is fleeting and depending upon people and circumstances. Joy is true internal contentment that comes from our faith in God. It is everlasting and not dependent on circumstances or people. No one can take your joy away. I love this analogy by Danielle LaPorte-- "Happiness is rising bubbles-delightful & inevitably fleeting. Joy is oxygen-ever present."
Rather than fleeting happiness, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that has long lasting effects. Joy is what you have when you have hope. You can be in the deepest, darkest place or in a difficult trial, but still have joy. Just look at Paul who was imprisoned in Rome and still spoke of his unending joy through his trials and "thorns."
I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. 2 Corinthians 7:4
One of my favorite "joy" verses was cross-stitched in a frame on a wall at our house on Deer Park as we grew up.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
I used to think Mom just wanted us to tell the truth always and not be liars. And, as that is true, its not what is really means. The truth is knowing Jesus is my Savior. Jesus is why I can be joyful. Belief in him gives us joy in any circumstance.
If you have been with me and my blog for a while, you might remember that I started out with it called "if you're happy and you know it." I loved the idea of using a children's song title with Christian context, but it just wasn't right. I had to change it and that is how I ended up with "i've got the joy down in my heart." That is the difference. Joy is deep down and it is in my heart regardless of my circumstances because I have hope in my Savior.