Joy vs Happiness, part 1
Love is the difference between joy and happiness because joy comes from my heart, while happiness is a reflection of my circumstances.
As I pondered the idea that love made the difference, my past experiences crystallized.
Of course I was happy when I graduated from an arduous (and almost disastrous) college experience. My circumstances were changing, and I had overcome a massive obstacle. But I couldn't be joyful, because I was terrified. My outsides were smiling, my insides were quivering. I had not yet learned to trust in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5).
When our little son was born, I had received the gift I had longed for since I was a child - the gift of motherhood. On the outside it was the fulfillment of a dream. On the inside I was overwhelmed with the responsibility, exhausted from the constant sacrifice, terrified for my child. What if there was an accident, what if he got sick, what if children were mean to him, what if I made a bad parenting decision? And on and on and on. The breaks in the clouds had been the result of a powerful mother love forcing them aside, but even love for my child wasn't strong enough to hold them back for long.
It's not that I got better at feeling love, it's that I became more intentional about doing love. This was a result of my love for Jesus, which in turn was a reflection of His love for me.
"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
I see it like this:
Jesus loves me --> I love Him back --> I want to please Him --> I obey His command to love through my actions (even when I don't feel like it) --> His reward is joy!
Not what I would have expected.
I had come into adulthood thinking that love was an emotion. A wonderful emotion that, if I were a better person, I would feel more strongly and more often. But it turned out to be more like an incredibly rich chocolate cake. I couldn't feel it into existence, I had to do some work!
The ingredients were things like obedience and patience. Forgiveness and sacrifice. Those words sound ever so pious, but not like they would make chocolate cake! They sound boring and hard and old-fashioned.
Hard, yes. And about as old-fashioned as you can get. But boring? Not so much. The interior life is stretched to capacity trying to walk out such things.
Honestly, there were times when I obeyed out of sheer stubbornness. The world was falling apart around me, and I was determined to find some stable ground. I was going to plant my feet on that rock no matter what. I was miserable anyway, might as well be miserable and obedient. Maybe at least God would be happy.
I expect He was chuckling at me.