Many times I find myself whistling or humming a tune while at work, in the car, in stores as I shop, or when I’m walking around at church. Sometimes it seems uncontrollable and I’m forced to refrain myself: for example, after the singing at church is done I must consciously force myself to stop humming the tunes we sang so I, and those around me, can hear the sermon and other such occasions when silence is required or when I’m causing others to not be able to concentrate on their projects.
Often others will stop me and ask, gee, you must be happy? I love it when they ask that, especially when the non-Christian asks because it opens the door for me to tell them, no, I’m not happy at all, but I’m joyful! Many look at me as if I’m crazy, you may even be questioning it yourself, but I can assure you that I’m not. Happiness is dependent upon our circumstance while joy is dependent on our current relationship with God. Happiness is temporal and external; joy is long lasting and is internal. Happiness is what you experience when something good happens to you but joy is your state of being that flows from within you out to those around you regardless of circumstances good or bad, thus, having an affect others.
Let me explain it with a true example: We, my brother, mother and I, had a plan: I was to build a house full time with the proceeds of our mother’s house while my brother was to pay the living expenses. To make a long story short, my brother, who was gong to transfer here later, told me one day: bro, he often called me that, I’ve changed my mind. I’m not coming. I quickly reminded him that I had already started the house and wouldn’t be able to finish it without him paying for the living expenses. He “encouraged” me by telling me, just get job and you’ll be able to finish it over time or just sell it and do something else. Oh, and I’ll send some money to help with the care of mom. Needless to say, some money didn’t pay the bills. I was not a happy camper!
It’s been over three years since that conversation. I did get a job, but the pay was not enough to pay all the bills. We (our mother had come out with me rather than waiting to transfer when my brother was going to) had enough money for almost everything; but didn’t have enough to rent a place to stay. Faced with this dilemma, we did the only thing we could think of at the time: mom and I moved into our van. This of course didn’t make us any happier! We did have a way of escape but it required us to compromise God’s word so we choose not to do it. We have been joyful in spite of our circumstances. I often find myself uncontrollably whistling and humming because the joy doesn’t come from our circumstances and the suffering they bring, but from obedience to God and doing right.
God doesn’t promise us a life of pleasure. He promises to provide our needs. God has done so: we have food, clothes, and a protection from the elements. Paul too, was joyous in suffering when he was in prison, yet I’m sure that if he was asked if he was happy to be there he would have said no. Prisons in Paul’s day were nowhere near the comfort of our prisons today.
So how do we have joy in trials as James tells us to? Realize that happiness comes from things, but joy comes from obedience to God’s Word, His written will, and trusting in Him for the outcome as did Joseph when sold into slavery and then imprisoned when falsely accused by Potiphar”s wife. We could have escaped the past years of suffering by way of compromise as could Joseph have avoided prison by joining Potiphar’s wife. We had a number of Christian people tell us: you’ll still go to heaven even if you compromise or there’s a time to compromise, but the Christian life isn’t just about going to heaven. The Christian life is living for God according to God’s will even if it doesn’t produce immediate pleasure. God doesn’t get glory if we compromise and joy doesn’t come from compromise.