I don’t want to be happy. I want to be joyful.
Happy to be happy, but I prefer to be filled with joy. Do I have to make a choice, and is there any difference between the two?
Happiness has become a goal that allows all sorts of fouls into the back of the net – no red cards, no penalties ensuing. On the contrary. We vigorously applaud the goal of happiness (as an aside, if you flip the ‘a’ and ‘o’ you have gaol), and we insist that it is a fundamental human right, or should be enshrined as one.
The difference is that happiness isn’t, nor ever should be, our goal. Aside from being completely illusive it is an outcome, a result of, a serendipity. And when we make goals of outcomes we have made gods of chance, and ‘gods’ always turn into demons.
One man who knows more about the futility of happiness being the reason for ‘being’ is Victor Frankl. He survived the concentration camps of World War Two, that saw off almost his entire family, his wife included. He soon discovered, if he didn’t already know it, that happiness was a commodity of great rarity in those brutal camps, and hardly something that you could hope for much less work towards. Simple pleasures were no longer simple much less pleasurably. Eating and drinking became purely pragmatic, hardly a daily delight. All the things we take for granted and derive some pleasure from were taken from them, eventually life itself, for most of them.
He maintained that happiness is something that ‘ensues from’ circumstances, circumstances they soon were deprived of, utterly. To search for happiness was futile but to search for meaning could lead to happiness.
Joy on the other hand has as little to do with circumstance as happiness is entirely dependant on it. It was at the worst of times that Jesus started talking about joy to his disciples. He told them he was leaving them with his joy and peace, and in the next breathe told them that as long as they lived in this world they would have tribulations.
The clear message, lived out by him, and those who believe in him, is that joy isn’t reliant upon external stimulation. It is a gift of the Spirit of God and both goes with us and is a promise to us. “Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame.”
It is deep in that it springs up from within but not so deep as to remain stubbornly subterranean. It expresses itself when our circumstances are favourable and losses no zest when they aren’t.
It has sustaining power, unlike happiness, which is as fickle as an English summer.
Now that is what I would like. And I’m sure you would to? Not the summer, the joy. Although a summer would be nice, as well.
I don’t want to be happy – I want to be joyful.
(Don’t I want happiness? Don’t be daft, of course I do)