What is the difference between joy and happiness? Is there a difference? It is a good question and one worth asking, especially as we find ourselves in very difficult times as a society. Happiness is based primarily on our ability to attain a place in life that brings contentment, safety, and fulfillment. Thus, “the pursuit of happiness”.
As I think of happiness, I think of the parents in this article about niche sports. Apparently, there are opportunities for young men and women at the elite academic institutions through these niche sports. Niche sports are sports such as squash, lacrosse, crew, and others that are not football and basketball. Parents in elite circles push their children in these sports as if their lives depend on it. In their minds, their lives do depend on it. Harvard and Brown mean life. Ohio State and Florida mean death. Imagine thinking that. Participants in this melee often experience repetitive stress injuries and deep depression as well as burnout. Broken bodies and spirits. This is an extreme example of how we chase our tails to achieve happiness.
Joy is a state of being that is brought about by something outside of us. As I consider joy, I think of Paul, the Apostle. He was shipwrecked, beaten, left for dead, adrift at sea, rejected — he lost everything, including his life. Yet, he rejoiced. He rejoiced as he went to his end in Rome. Since joy is dependent on something outside of us, it is not something we need to attain or drum up. Since Christian joy depends on the death and resurrection of the Son of God, this news is eternal and unassailable. Not even Satan himself can alter the events of the Gospel — which is Good News for us. This Gospel — this message that brings joy to the hearer — is for you. This Gospel is the fountain of joy that is true for you in the best times of your life and in the darkest times.
All of us at St. Thomas’ are Together in Joy.