Thirty years ago this month, Bobby McFerrin released a song that became the first a cappella single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song included the words, “In every life we have some trouble/ When you worry you make it double/Don’t worry, be happy.” I really like this song and love the upbeat message. My only concern is that it’s hard to be happy all the time.
The word “happy” comes from the Hebrew word “ashar” and means to “set right or be blessed.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines happiness as a person or situation “favored by luck or fortune.” Happiness is wonderful. The concern is that happiness depends upon happenings. When life is good and circumstances are in our favor, we are happy. When life is not good and circumstances are against us, we are not happy. Happiness comes and goes. Instead of seeking happiness, I believe joy is a deeper pursuit. Joy comes from the Greek root word “chara” and means to be “exceedingly glad.” In James 1:2-3 we read, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (NIV)
Deep abiding joy comes as we maneuver through difficulties with God’s help. This makes our faith stronger and richer. Happiness is fleeting. Joy is a true contentment that comes from internal factors like our trust in the Lord.
Quite simply, we do not have a mandate to be happy at all times. We also don’t have an example of Jesus demonstrating happiness all the time. What we have is the promise of joy. Happiness is the feeling we get when everything works the precise way we desire. Joy is the peace we are given from God when we put our troubles in our Creator’s hands.
As we move into these fall months, might we seek to live a life of joy! Challenging times will periodically come, but with an inner peace that God and Christ Jesus are working in our life, we emerge from these tough times a stronger person and we have the power to make a difference with those around us!
A Thousand Blessings to each of you!