Joy vs Happiness part 1

For years I have tried to grasp the difference between joy and happiness.  I've always sensed a fundamental distinction, but been unable to define it.  The dictionary is no help - according to Webster's the words are essentially synonymous.  My heart told me that something was missing in the dictionary.

When I was 23, I graduated from college.  I was happy that day, yes.  Relieved!  But joyful?  No.  I was too scared to be joyful.

I spent almost 30 years looking for happiness.  I caught occasional glimpses, but disappointment lurked around every corner, waiting to envelop my hopes.  Life was hard, people were selfish, and I couldn't escape any of it.

I could force myself to seem happy.  I could convince myself I was happy.  But it felt like a coat I kept trying on that just didn't fit.  A beautiful, over-sized, falling-off-my-shoulders coat.

When our first son was born, the heavy clouds that hovered around me would occasionally break.  The sunshine of his giggle, the way he stopped fussing when I held him, the newness and possibility in his brown eyes... the darkness pushed back for a moment.

But life would still be hard, people would still be selfish, and I still couldn't escape.  Heaviness again.

I can't say exactly when joy began to overtake me.

In its inevitable way, life kept getting harder.  A second trimester miscarriage.  An unemployed husband.  A new baby.  A traveling husband, making me a part-time single mom.  A new home business.  And then a big move, first for over a year to live with my parents, and then to a farm.  And still a traveling husband.

But something was happening to me.  I was holding less tightly to my ideas of what I wanted, and looking more at the other people in my life to try to understand what they needed.  And then I was trying to do it.  I was learning to love.

And that is when the clouds stopped regrouping so quickly.

As I chose to simply obey... "Love one another"... and stopped thinking so hard about myself, joy snuck in.

A few days ago, as I sat on my couch in the early morning, the familiar pat-pat of Little Warrior's feet sounded.  He delights in sneaking into the living room, waiting for me to catch his eye, then flying into my lap.  We kiss and snuggle until we're all filled up.  As he rounded the corner that morning and our faces lit up at one another, God spoke to my heart.


Love is the difference.

1 comment:

  1. beautiful! I really hadn't thought about joy being the product of selflessness.


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