Eternal Joy v. Temporal Happiness

There’s nothing quite like taking a sip of a cold drink after a couple of hours in the sun on a hot day, or cuddling with a purring kitten, or getting a hug from someone you love who you dearly missed. I’d argue that these are some of the best feelings in the world! Relief, comfort, love. These happy moments are filled with pleasure during the time that you are enjoying them, but ultimately, that feeling doesn’t last. When you go back into the hot sun, or leave the cat, or have to say goodbye to someone, you aren’t feeling the same happiness you felt. While all those moments I first mentioned are happy moments, are they joyful moments?

Joy and happiness are used interchangeably today, but they aren’t the same thing, especially coming from a Biblical standpoint. Happiness depends on the situation or the circumstances. You’re happy when you’re eating ice cream, kissing someone, or succeeding in school. The happiness in each of those situations depends on something: the ice cream, the other person, or the success. Joy is different. Joy is being completely and totally content. It doesn’t depend on circumstances because joy comes from God, and our faith in Him. He doesn’t change or leave due to circumstances. He remains with us through every trial, every happy moment, every lonely moment.

You can be joyful and not happy. We are called to be joyful even through difficult times, because God is still there with us. An excellent example of this is found in Acts 5. The Apostles had been brought in front of the Sanhedrin, the governing council, after news had spread of the apostles healing many. The Sanhedrin was angry, and after Peter spoke for the Apostles, saying that they would not back down, the council wanted to put them all to death. Eventually, they decided not to put them to death, instead the Apostles were flogged, told not to speak of Jesus, and then went on their way.

After this experience, I feel like I’d just be pretty angry. “These Pharisees arrest me, tell me to stop doing what I’m doing, beat me up and whip me, and then tell me not to speak of the amazing things Jesus has done for me? Back off, man!” The Sanhedrin basically told the Apostles that their life’s work didn’t matter. That’s pretty harsh. But the Apostles didn’t react like I would have. You know what they did? Acts 5:41 says that “the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (NIV). The Apostles rejoiced (joy!) because God had allowed them to suffer in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their circumstances sucked. Flat out. And yet, they felt joy.

So why is all this important? You probably didn’t get flogged for going to church this morning, did you? How can this be applied to your life?

We are called to have faith in God. He will do all the amazing things that He says He will, including give us life and let us “have it to the full” (John 15:33). All we need is to have faith and trust Him. Sometimes, that means putting off temporal happiness here on Earth, to do something that will glorify God more. In Hebrews 13, the author writes, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.” (Hebrews 13:14-15 NLT).

Sometimes, we just want to do what we want to do. But that is not what we are called to do. We are called to God’s amazing journey for us. That will require sacrifices from our end, whether it be sacrificed relationships, money, or social status. But when we do this, we are hoping and trusting in the fact that God has something so much greater for us in store when we reach His Kingdom. Let’s not get so caught up in temporary pleasures that we miss out on the joy that God has for us!

(featured image found here)

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