The first few months after receiving my infertility diagnosis filled me with anger, fear, confusion, doubt, regret, anxiety, and sadness (to name a few). Everything I had dreamed and planned for my life was suddenly tangled, clouded, dark. If I had made a syllabus outlining my life before my doctor’s appointment, I may as well have put it through the shredder when I left.
But over time, I have realized and accepted that my infertility is a blessing. I repeat — a blessing! Because I have little to no control over this. A self-confessed control-freak now has no access to the steering wheel. No control. Yes, probably the two most-feared words I can think of.
I know the Lord is using infertility to (1) humble me; (2) strengthen me; (3) be a voice for others; (4) draw nearer to Him; and (5) bring Him glory.
“It’s crazy,” I’ll say to people. “But I am filled with so much joy.”
People often reply: “Oh my gosh, Meredith. I don’t know how you can be so happy going through this. I know I couldn’t be!”
I laugh, and clarify. “No no … I’m not beaming with happiness and skipping through the streets throwing confetti,” I say. “But I am full of joy in my heart, mind, and spirit. Not happiness.”
Looks of confusion? Yes, many looks of confusion. It took time for me, but once I was able to discern the difference between happiness and joy, I was empowered to speak truth to others, help them understand the difference, and join me on my journey. I felt in my heart the spiritual difference between joy and happiness, but I couldn’t begin to explain it in writing. I decided to Google it, and found a chart that describes it perfectly. Pay close attention to one clear difference that keeps presenting itself.
|Meaning||Happiness is an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure.||Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion. Being connected to God or to others in a great cause and synergistic result.|
|Causes||Earthly experiences, material objects||Spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude|
|Emotion||Outward expression of elation||Inward peace and contentment|
|Timeframe||Temporary, based on outward circumstances||Lasting, based on inward circumstances|
|Example||In the midst of life’s ups and downs happiness is still present.||Serving others, sometimes through sacrifice with no possible personal gain. Witnessing justice for the less fortunate. Experiencing God’s mercy and grace and feeling His love. All can result in joy.|
The difference is clear: happiness is outward; joy is inward. Happiness is temporary and based on outward circumstances; joy is lasting and based on our inward experiences with the Lord. (By the way, the information where I gathered this information is a secular website. I find it interesting that “joy” is described through God!)
Isn’t it interesting that this site says that joy is a “stronger, less common feeling than happiness”? Why is this? Well, if you haven’t noticed, we are a world that worships ourselves, others, and possessions. We are a world that enjoys temporary pleasure. Our country is devoted to “the pursuit of happiness.” And that’s where the downward spiral can quickly head towards bitterness, resentment, jealousy, comparison, anger, and feelings of failure.
When we don’t receive instant happiness, we fight for it. We walk over others to obtain it. We risk our relationships and finances for it. Happiness is our world’s idol. Happiness is disposable. Once we get rid of momentary happiness, we try to replace it with something else. At some point, what we have isn’t good enough to make us happy. The Bible even warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking won’t lead to happiness and fulfillment. Seeking it oftentimes leaves us empty and disillusioned. Proverbs 14:13 warns of this lifestyle: “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.” And according to 1 Timothy 5:6, a self-indulgent person is dead while seeming still to be alive. Praise God that we only need one thing to have pure joy: Jesus! (Can I get an ‘Amen’!?)
If we live confidently with the Lord, we don’t need to pursue happiness. In fact, He really doesn’t tell us to! Depending on your Bible’s translation, the word “happy” is only mentioned between 10 and 28 times in the Bible. “Joy” is mentioned anywhere from 122 to 200 times! Think about it: what is God telling us to seek? What is more beneficial to our lives? I think you know the answer.
Take heart in knowing that you serve a God who desires for you and encourages you to have joy in your life. Does it mean you will always be happy? No. Remember, as Believers we know we are subject to live a life of greater suffering than those who don’t put their faith in the Lord. But joy in the Lord means we are enabled to enjoy every good thing God has given us. We can rejoice, even when trouble comes. I love this quote from Robert J. Dean:
Many people think that God is the great Kill-Joy. Nothing could be a bigger lie. God Himself knows joy, and He wants His people to know joy. Psalm 104:31 speaks of God Himself rejoicing in His creative works. Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.” — Robert J. Dean
The joy of the Lord is our strength! Walk today with the God of all comfort and peace, who promises joy even in our weakest moments.
Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. — Nehemiah 8:10
> This post was once on my former blog, The What If Chronicles, and has been modified for “It’s Positive!” So it may sound familiar to some of you!
The joy of the Lord is my strength,