Choosing Joy

I have always liked the word “joy.” I often buy Christmas cards that have “joy” written somewhere on the cover or inside in the verse, and I have two decorator pillows that have “joy” embroidered on them. I even have a newly acquired coffee cup that has “joy” written across the front of it. However, with all of those external reminders about “joy,” I realized that lately I need to get more of it inside of me instead of just seeing it on all of those external reminders.

I have always thought that joy is different from happiness. Happiness seems to be something fleeting or momentary, and it doesn’t last long; whereas joy is an internal feeling that is not dependent on circumstances. As I was looking online to see what the differences were between the two words, I found an article that asks a question in it’s title–Is there a difference between joy and happiness?”–and the answer is found on GotQuestions.org:

There is no explicit difference between happiness and joy. Both involve the emotions, both are pleasurable feelings, and both are mentioned in Scripture in passages that equate the two.

A dictionary definition of “happiness” is “a state of well-being; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” A definition of the word “rejoice,” related to the word “joy,” is “to feel great delight; to be glad.” Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” words about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times.

Jeremiah 31:13 says, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; / I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Here, in the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, the words “gladness” and “joy” are used synonymously. And Proverbs 23:25 says, “Let your father and your mother be glad, / And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.” Being glad is the same thing as rejoicing in this verse. Unless we are willing to say that gladness and happiness are completely different things, then we must say that joy and happiness are linked.

It is common today to hear believers speak of a difference between joy and happiness. The teaching usually makes the following points: 1) Happiness is a feeling, but joy is not. 2) Happiness is fleeting, but joy is everlasting. 3) Happiness depends on circumstances or other people, but joy is a gift from God. 4) Happiness is worldly, but joy is divine. But there is no such distinction made in Scripture, and forcing a distinction between two words that are so obviously close in meaning is unnecessary.

If a person is joyful, then he or she is happy. There’s no such thing as glum joy. We cannot drain joy of emotion and still call it “joy.” When God’s Spirit gives us joy, then we are happy people. Christians should be joyful; happiness should characterize our everyday lives.

James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.” Christians can be happy, even in the midst of difficulties, because we know “the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (verses 3–4). As we persevere through trials, with God’s help, our faith strengthens and matures. By God’s grace we can be happy despite our circumstances.

Joy is often presented as “true” contentment based on faith. Happiness, in contrast, is often thought of as “false” or “superficial” emotion dependent on circumstances. But this is a false dichotomy. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests we divorce joy from happiness. The two are equal.

Of course, there are different types of joy and happiness. There is a joy that comes from the world, such as “the fleeting pleasures of sin” spoken of in Hebrews 11:25. There is a joy that is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). There is a temporary happiness and an eternal happiness, but we can call both “happiness.” We don’t need to split hairs between the meaning of “joy” and “happiness.” We just need to decide where our joy comes from. Are we happy in the Lord, or are we content with the happiness the world affords?

Solomon tried the world’s brand of happiness and found it to be lacking: “I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless. ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?’” (Ecclesiastes 2:1–2). The joy of the world is hollow, but the joy of the Lord is rich and abundant. The world’s happiness will fade with time, but God’s people will be happy forever.

“Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). (Quote source here.)

Given that explanation, joy and happiness are equal in their meanings, but both differentiate between the happiness and joy found in worldly pursuits, and the happiness and joy found in the Lord.

However, I found another article published on August 13, 2020, that differentiates between joy and happiness. In this article titled, What is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?” by Glory Dy, content editor and contributing writer on Christianity.com, she states:

Joy and happiness are two different emotions that are somewhat similar but are actually very different. Joy is attributed to something very consistent and internal, while happiness tends to be triggered externally. (Quote source here.)

She lists five key differences between happiness and joy, with descriptions given for each of these differences in her article at this link:

  1. Happiness is External; Joy is Internal
  2. Happiness is Bliss; Joy is Selfless
  3. Happiness is Pleasure; Joy is a Sacrifice
  4. Happiness is Achievable on Earth; Joy is a More Spiritual Connection with God
  5. Happiness is Not Necessarily Good: Joy is Purely Good

And she ends her article with this summary:

Many people tend to have difficulty differentiating happiness from joy. However, it is actually very simple. Happiness is merely external, fleeting, can sometimes only be for pleasure, is only achievable on earth, and can sometimes not necessarily be good.

Joy, on the other hand, is internal, selfless, sacrificial, a spiritual connection with God, and is purely good. We need joy in our lives just as we need the Father and Jesus in our lives. That is why, to be able to attain joy, we must receive Christ, follow Him and His teachings. (Quote source here.)

Joy, of course, is also listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

GotQuestions.org explains what the fruit of the Holy Spirit is as follows:

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that everyone receives the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:91 Corinthians 12:13Ephesians 1:13-14). One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit coming into a Christian’s life is to change that life. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to conform us to the image of Christ, making us more like Him.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is in direct contrast with the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This passage describes all people, to varying degrees, when they do not know Christ and therefore are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful flesh produces certain types of fruit that reflect our nature, and the Holy Spirit produces types of fruit that reflect His nature.

The Christian life is a battle of the sinful flesh against the new nature given by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). As fallen human beings, we are still trapped in a body that desires sinful things (Romans 7:14-25). As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in us and we have the Holy Spirit’s power available to conquer the acts of the sinful nature (2 Corinthians 5:17Philippians 4:13). A Christian will never be completely victorious in always demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the main purposes of the Christian life, though, to progressively allow the Holy Spirit to produce more and more of His fruit in our lives—and to allow the Holy Spirit to conquer the opposing sinful desires. The fruit of the Spirit is what God desires our lives to exhibit and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, it is possible! (Quote source here.)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I need to cultivate more joy internally in my life and take my focus off of all the “external” stuff that is going on all around us in the world today. With that in mind, I found an article published on January 7, 2020, titled, 10 Ways to Get Your Joy Back,” by John Lindell, Lead Pastor at James River Church, and author of “New Normal: Experiencing God’s Best for Your Life,” published in April 2021. I’ll include a list of his “10 ways to get your joy back” below with more explanations on each one available at this link:

1. Joy is something God can restore

PSALM 51:12, Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (ESV)

2. Joy is found in God’s presence

PSALM 16:11, You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (ESV)

3. Joy is the result of righteousness

PSALM 97:11, Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. (NLT)
ECCLESIASTES 2:26, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. (NLT)

4. Joy is found in delighting in God’s Word

PSALM 119:111, Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. (NIV) I like the way The Message reads, “I inherited your book on living…”

5. Joy is the result of speaking with wisdom

PROVERBS 15:23, To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! (ESV)

6. Joy is produced by righteous hope

PROVERBS 10:28, The hope of the righteous brings joy… (ESV)

7. Joy is found in answered prayer

JOHN 16:24, Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (ESV)

8. Joy is produced by the Holy Spirit

GALATIANS 5:22, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy… (ESV)
GALATIANS 5:25, Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (NIV)

9. Joy fills our heart as we remember the good things God has done through the people He has placed in our lives

PHILIPPIANS 1:3-5, I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. (GNT)

10. Joy comes when we trust the Lord

PSALM 40:4, Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord… (NLT) (Quote source here.)

I do believe I’m starting to feel more joyful! I’ll end this post with the words found in Nehemiah 8:10b: Do not sorrow…

For the joy . . .

Of the LORD . . .

Is your strength . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Joy Of The Lord” by Twila Paris:

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Speak Life

Personal insults–they infect conversations whether in person or on social media or in group settings. They occur in families, and among friends, and even from strangers. And often they come out of the blue when we are least expecting them. And they are meant to hurt, intimidate, and humiliate whoever is the target of them, especially when the insult hits below the belt.”

So how do we respond when a personal insult is targeted at us? And what is our initial response? Shock, anger, humiliation? How about rage, or striking back?

That’s the response they are looking for, waiting for, hoping for. So don’t give it to them. That is the best response.

As I was researching this topic online, I came across an article titled, Ad Hominem: When People Use Personal Attacks in Arguments,” (author’s name not mentioned), that states the following:

An ad hominem argument is a personal attack against the source of an argument, rather than against the argument itself. Essentially, this means that ad hominem arguments are used to attack opposing views indirectly, by attacking the individuals or groups that support these views.

Ad hominem arguments can take many forms, from basic name-calling to more complex rhetoric. For example, an ad hominem argument can involve simply insulting a person instead of properly replying to a point that they raised, or it can involve questioning their motives in response to their criticism of the current state of things.

Ad hominem arguments are common in both formal and informal discussions on various topics, so it’s important to understand them. As such, in the following article you will learn more about ad hominem arguments, see what types of them exist, and understand what you can do to respond to them properly….

A basic example of an ad hominem argument is a person telling someone “you’re stupid, so I don’t care what you have to say”, in response to hearing them present a well-thought position. This is the simplest type of fallacious ad hominem argument, which is nothing more than an abusive personal attack, and which has little to do with the topic being discussed….

There are various types of ad hominem arguments, each of which involves a different way of attacking the source of an opposing argument. These include, most notably, “poisoning the well,” “the credentials fallacy,” “the appeal to motive,” “the appeal to hypocrisy,” “tone policing,” “the traitorous critic fallacy,” “the association fallacy,” and “the abusive fallacy.” (Quote source here. Each of those types are discussed at length in the article.)

In a post published on May 13, 2020, titled, How to Respond to Insults,” by Dianna Miller, on her blog, dressedinfaith.com, she writes:

We’ve all been in this situation. Someone gets very angry with you and insults you for no understandable reason. Sometimes, it may be the result of an unintentional mistake you made. Other times, you may just be the unlucky person with bad timing. Either way, the insult is completely unjustified.

I know my first instinct is to say something insulting back, but it has to be just right. It has to be a perfect zinger that expresses exactly what I’m feeling and hurt the other person as deeply as they hurt me. You know, it has to be the perfect comeback line.

Fortunately for me, I am not one of those people who is quick on her feet when trying to immediately get back at someone. Yet, that doesn’t mean I haven’t come up with something before to hurl at the other person. How do I usually feel after I do this? I don’t feel so great about it!

As Christians, we are taught not to pay back insult with insult. Instead, we are taught to pray for them and ask God to bless them. It is not easy at times as emotions can certainly get the better of us. Yet, I know my response not only plays a role in how the other person will feel but also how I will feel.

Many times, someone’s behavior towards us may have nothing to do with us personally, especially when from a stranger. Stopping to pray for them gives me perspective. They may be having the worst day of their life and need prayer. I don’t need to add to their heartache even if I’m feeling offended.

The same can be said if I know the person well. An angry response certainly doesn’t solve anything or make the situation better. In fact, it just stirs up more anger for both parties. While a kind response may not immediately resolve the situation, prayer for the person who offended me also calms my spirit. I can place my stress and anxiety about the situation in God’s hands. I know He will work in both our lives to meet both our needs.

We inherit a blessing when we treat others with respect and when we shine as an example of a life changed by Christ.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. —1 Peter 3:9 (Quote source here.)

And in answer to the question, What did Jesus mean when he instructed us to turn the other cheek?” on GotQuestions.org, the following answer is provided:

In Matthew 5:38–39, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” The concept of “turning the other cheek” is a difficult one for us to grasp. Allowing a second slap after being slapped once does not come naturally.

In the section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He commands us to turn the other cheek, He addresses the need for true transformation, versus mere rule-keeping. It’s not enough to obey the letter of the law; we must conform to the spirit of the law as well.

Much of the material surrounding Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek complements the nature of His coming, which was characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners. At the same time, Jesus affirms the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, He tells us to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us (Matthew 5:41) and to love and pray for our enemies instead of holding enmity against them (verse 44). In summary, Jesus is saying we need to be pure inside and out and as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

A word about the “slap” that Jesus says we should endure. Jesus here speaks of personal slights of any kind. The slap (or the “smiting,” as the KJV has it) does not have to involve literal, physical violence. Even in our day, a “slap in the face” is a metaphor for an unexpected insult or offense. Did someone insult you? Let him, Jesus says. Are you shocked and offended? Don’t be. And don’t return insult for insult. Turn the other cheek.

Matthew Henry’s comment on this verse is helpful: “Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord’s keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort” (Concise Commentary, entry for Matthew 5:38).

Turning the other cheek does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in danger. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is simply a command to forgo retaliation for personal offenses. He was not setting government foreign policy, and He was not throwing out the judicial system. Crimes can still be prosecuted, and wars can still be waged, but the follower of Christ need not defend his personal “rights” or avenge his honor.

There was a time in history when a man would feel compelled to protect his honor against one who slandered him or otherwise besmirched his character. The offended party would challenge the offender to a duel. Swords, firearms, or other weapons were chosen, and the two enemies would face off. In most cases, senseless bloodshed ensued. Samuel Johnson wrote in favor of the practice of dueling: “A man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.” The problem is that “invasions of character” are exactly what Jesus told us to tolerate in Matthew 5:38. Turning the other cheek would have been a better option than dueling, and it would have saved lives.

Retaliation is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Turning the other cheek requires help from on high. Responding to hatred with love and ignoring personal slights display the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and may afford the chance to share the gospel.

Jesus was, of course, the perfect example of turning the other cheek because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him. Instead, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from 1 Peter 3:9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called…

So that you . . .

May inherit . . .

A blessing. . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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