November 16, 2017

When the alarm went off this morning, I tapped the snooze button over and over for an hour. Finally, I made it downstairs for my morning ritual of coffee and devotions. By coincidence, or more likely God’s humor, my personal reading and the church’s automatic email, were both about joy. Soul soothing words, as recently, life has felt a little bitter, a little empty. Jarred by the sudden death of a dear friend’s husband and my welling anger of American politics and our gun violence crisis, I haven’t felt all that happy recently. And while my to-do list includes such festive activities as thawing the Thanksgiving turkey and ordering the Christmas cards, it’s not always all Hallmark Happiness, you know?

Scott is out of town for two days, so I am playing a cameo in the role of “involved parent”. I successfully got everyone off to school and went for a quick run. I planned to go into work, even though I am not on call, but as I was doing the math, I determined I would be there for about two hours before I’d have to come home again to beat the kiddos off the bus. It wasn’t worth it. On many levels.

Instead, I decided, after pushing through some surgeon guilt, that I would serve myself better by getting some regular life stuff done. I switched the laundry and pulled out the over-ripe bananas from the freezer and found the recipe for my mom’s banana bread. (pro tip: don’t throw away brown bananas, freeze them; perfect for smoothies and baking. You are welcome.) While the banana bread muffins were in the oven, I showered. While the muffins were cooling, I did the dishes, checked my email, and planned the dinner I promised to take to a friend recovering from surgery. I changed the sheets on the little boys’ beds and made plans to go buy a birthday gift for Allie, an entire five days before the actual day. Record. Breaking. Efficiency.

While I was out shopping in our little village for Allie, I was reconsidering the things I read this morning. About joy.  I was reminded that happiness is not joy. I have been missing some happiness recently…thanks in part to busyness or laziness…and some selfishness. The word joy comes from the Greek chara, from charis (grace, gift) and choros (rejoice). Joy is given to me, not earned or discovered. It’s God’s gift to me. It is found not through anything I can do or will or think or try. It’s a gift that comes from the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Joy is far deeper than happiness, far richer than a smile or laugh, far sweeter than a fleeting feeling. Joy filled my soul today as I spent the day alone, reflecting, and considering its source. 

When the boys came home from school, they smelled the muffins, and eagerly asked for one. I smiled and obliged. That was happiness. But as I watched them creating a crumbly mess in their excitement, I thanked God for these gifts…for my children and my husband, my home…and my life.  For his grace and mercy. For his gifts. And today I was most thankful to have my heart refilled with a joy that I don’t deserve, I haven’t earned, but has graciously been given to me by a Father who loves me so much he wants me to have joy…whether or not I have happiness.

Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.


  1. Reply


    So well done. You nailed it. There IS a difference between joy and happiness!!

  2. Reply

    John jung

    Superb insight. May both your joy and happiness abound!

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