Happiness and/or joy is human emotion that is not simply or easily defined, sort of like art and love - it is what you think it is. Much the same as the Greeks who had three different words to describe love, I think of ‘happy’ as something that can happen in different ways, for multiple and often contradictory reasons.
For example, I can be deliriously happy that a chill rainy Saturday has forced me to hunker down with a good book or I can be distraught and frustrated that a cold rain has interfered with an outdoor plan. Thus being happy is subjective and dependent entirely on where my head is.
But I perceive joy as something that comes to me from outside of me. A miracle I cannot create on my own. I had a moment recently that exemplifies this.
Not going into unnecessary detail, I am currently in the middle of a great striving against evil right now. Every single day brings new challenge. In this moment of trial and testing, I can experience, on any given day, a huge range of emotion–from cold angst to peace. While this might sound like bi-polar disorder, actually it’s just me allowing my childish human weaknesses to be at odds with my spiritual maturity. All it takes is one bad report or email or yet another set back to send me into the old ‘what if God’s plan isn’t what I am praying for?’ mode.
I was in the grips of one of these cold sweat moments recently when the most amazing thing happened. Joy. It came out of no where, lasted long enough to calm me and restore my emotional equilibrium and reset my focus. If I could describe it based on a physical sensation I’d say it was like a warm blanket being wrapped around my shivering body. My thoughts changed instantly from ‘what if’ to ‘it doesn’t matter because...He is with me’.
Not because I deserve it, but because He chooses to be with me. He chooses. I can absolutely count on that no matter what else happens. But this is not the same as simply capitulating or resigning myself to God’s will (that might not be my will). Gratitude bubbled up out of nowhere. Suddenly I was counting all my blessings, the big ones and the minuscule, and thanking Him. I couldn’t stop smiling. If I had been in a public place I’m sure I’d have been looked at with narrow-eyed suspicion - what is that old fool smiling at?
Is this where spiritual maturity kicks in and prevails? Experience and lessons learned bearing fruit? I have been in strife and tribulation many times before and He was with me then so why would I not trust that He is with me now? Or was it something else? Did He have mercy on me and touch me with an extra measure of Grace? The kind that reorders the brain to think in terms of blessings instead of troubles?
Why would He do that?
What if the whole exercise was God desiring to be happy? What? This made me consider that perhaps making God happy is way more important than me being happy.
Which begs the question, what makes God happy?
So while I have no way to explain the unfathomable depth of all that, just realizing it gives me a joy that definitely surpasses all understanding. For me, the take away is: joy is one of those experiences that we can’t find but rather it finds us, even in the middle of the storm, not because we have control but because He does.
It’s another kind of blessing. Possibly the best.