By Matthew Forsyth

At the start of my ministry journey at a local church in South London I remember saying at the start of my sermon ‘I am not here for your happiness but for your joy’

The faces of those in the congregation certainly seemed to reflect what is largely misunderstand about happiness vs joy.  Happiness finds its root in the word happening. Meaning happiness, the emotion comes from the happenings in our life. In today’s culture we strive for happiness. We are encouraged and sold products based on them giving us happiness.

Having kids of a young age has taught me a lot about the difference between happiness and joy. When I give my youngest daughter Amelia (aged 3) a chocolate coin her face instantly lights up! Now if I give her another then another you can imagine her face is like a Cheshire cat… However as soon as I say no more coins you can instantly see the happiness drain out of her. You see happiness is linked to the happenings that occur. You might have experienced this feeling in your life?

In the past few months, you might have experienced absolute happiness at its best. However, within one press conference that happiness might have evaporated, and you are left with a sense of emptiness and frustration. That certainly has been my experience of the last year as we have gone through this pandemic. Moments where that happiness I might have felt just disappear, maybe you can resonate that journey?

What I have had to remind myself is of the words I spoke out in that sermon all those years ago. ‘I am not here for your happiness but for your joy.’ You see joy is a conviction and a knowledge of Christ and for what He has done for each and every single one of us. This means that the worldly circumstances cannot take away that feeling that we have because Christ’s death and resurrection is forever.

The best thing of all is that joy comes from the Holy Spirit as one of the fruits of Spirt. So right now, you can receive joy.  That conviction and everlasting feeling is available to each one of us. Joy is God’s gift to each one of us.

If you are reading this and you are having the best time ever and feeling on top of the world that’s great! I want to keep you in that space right now and encourage you to keep pursuing joy so that when tough times come you will continue to be close to God. Maybe though you are not feeling too great. Maybe you miss loved ones and how life used to be. If that is you, then I want to encourage you to ask for Joy today. Ask God to give you Joy by the power of the Spirit so that you know His close presence and love deeply and intimately. You see I am not here for your happiness alone; I am here for your joy. Why? ‘Because Joy comes in the morning’ and joy will help us to live our best life in Christ. I pray that you might know joy not just happiness.

Matthew Forsyth is the Churches and Volunteers Officer with All We Can

This post is part of an advent series. Twenty-Four diverse voices have been invited to share some thoughts on one of four themes (Hope, Peace, Joy and Love) each day during the season of Advent. Each contributor has been given just one theme and no further parameters – they may write as much or as little in the style of their own choosing.

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