Read: John 16:16-33
There is a big difference between joy and happiness. Think back to a time when you were happy—it could be Christmas day when you were ten, or when you got your dream-job, or maybe just relaxing watching TV. Now think of something that brings you joy. How are they different? Happiness is short-term, a “flash-in-the-pan,” while joy is long-lasting, or something sustainable. Happiness can be generated from distraction, sheer luck, or the pursuit of pleasures; but joy is caused by lasting-happiness through a soul-satisfying state-of-being. Happiness is fleeting and impermanent, while joy is enduring and healing. Happiness may please you for a while, but joy will ignite your heart and overflow into your actions and decision making.
It is important to understand the weight and reality of joy, and how it can transform your life, as you read John 16:16-33. In this passage, Jesus is preparing to go to the cross, and naturally the disciples are filled with sadness. They just spent three years with Jesus—God in the flesh—and now He says He’s leaving? They’re not only sad, they’re scared, overwhelmed, and uncertain about the future. I don’t need to tell you what it’s like to feel these things. We all know what it’s like to feel pain—physical or emotional—and to be overwhelmed. There is nothing wrong or sinful about feeling these things, they’re a natural response to the painful and heavy things that happen to us in life. People have been pursuing joy as long as people have been around. We hunger for joy like we hunger for food, but few have found anything that will truly satisfy our souls.
Some have found it, some claim to have found it, and others jump from one happiness to another to substitute for it. But, since there’s only one route to lasting joy, it may be easier to describe where joy cannot be found. Joy cannot be found in unbelief, not in pleasure, not in money or material possessions, not in popularity or fame, and not in success or recognition. Only one thing can bring us true joy versus the fleeting happiness that the world tries to live off of.
In John 16, Jesus asks His concerned disciples, “[what did I mean by saying], ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? … You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. . . .you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
As followers of Jesus, our joy comes from the Lord Christ! Despite the pain and sorrow that we cannot avoid in our lifetime, we are sustained by His gracious life. For the disciples, they would have the sorrow of seeing their Lord, teacher, and friend crucified and killed. But when they saw Him again after the resurrection, their joy could not be quenched. For us, we have the joy of knowing Him through His Helper, the Holy Spirit, and the sustaining power of His resurrection life in us!
Through this passage, we have learned that He has not left us alone, because He sent us His Holy Spirit, and encourages us by pointing us to Christ who has overcome the world. That’s a good reason to celebrate and to hope now, and will be the cause of uninterrupted, everlasting joy when Christ returns.
Find a quiet place to sit down and write a list of where God has brought you joy in your life. Find at least five instances to write down. When you are done, take time and praise God for each one, recognizing Him as the source and sustainer of the joy in your life.