Saturday, July 6, 2013

Is it Happiness? OR Is it Joy?

I am in love with words.  I always have been.  From the time I was a little girl, I loved to read.  To this day, once I start reading a book, I have a hard time doing anything else until that book has been devoured.  (This can be a pretty bad thing when there are 10 other people plus numerous animals in the house who need taking care of while I am lost in another world!)  As a lover of words, I often desire to know the exact definition of a word, or at least the closest definition to the original as I can get, so I love to reference Webster's 1828 Dictionary.  

So, according to Webster's 1828, happiness is "the agreeable sensations which spring from the enjoyment of good; that state of a being in which his desires are gratified by the enjoyment of pleasure without pain.  Happiness expresses less than felicity, and felicity less than bliss.  Happiness is comparative.  To a person distressed with pain, relief from that pain affords happiness; positive pleasure; agreeable sensations.  Happiness admits of indefinite degrees of increase of enjoyment, or gratification of desires."

Joy is "the passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire.  A delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present, or assured approaching possession of a good.  Gayety; myrth; festivity.  Happiness; felicity.  A glorious or triumphant state.  The cause of joy or happiness."

I have kind of been taught my entire life that happiness is a bad thing while joyfulness is a good thing.  I don't think I believe that to be true.  I think that both are equally as good, just in different ways.  Maybe joy is a little harder to attain.  We have to work at it a bit more.  Have a bit of the Pollyanna spirit about us.  The word happy is found only 25 times in the Bible while the word joy (or any variation like joyful) is found 187 times.  Neither one carries a negative connotation.  So, I think that happiness is enjoying something good in the present, while joy is the anticipation of something good in the future.

In other words, I can overcome the miserable circumstances of right now by looking forward to the blissful circumstances of the future.  

Think about that for a minute.  I am only child who now has nine children of my own.  I never have any time alone.  My house is never clean.  My laundry is never done.  My floors are usually dirty.  My dishes are rarely done.  My yard is always a mess.  But that's okay.  It's temporary.  I can look forward to better circumstances in the future -- namely, my children being grown-up, good Christian people rearing their own families for the Lord.  My seemingly miserable circumstances right now are temporary.

However, in my day-to-day life, there are also many happy times.  Like when the misery of childbirth is immediately replaced by a squeaking, chubby, red-faced baby.  Like a bike ride on July 4th with family and great friends.  Like my 5 year old grabbing my face and telling me I'm beautiful (even though I'm 20 pounds heavier than I would like, my breath stinks, I haven't showered, and I look like I just crawled out from under a hole) and actually meaning it!  Like sitting on the front swing with the sun beaming down on me looking at my beautiful flowers!  Like sweet snuggles and kisses from the most adorable 5 month old in the world!  Like hugs from my adorable 3 year old.  Like roses picked (maybe illegally?!) and put in my hair by my ever-growing, nearly 15 year old son.  These things are priceless.  These things are easy to enjoy most of the time (we'll talk about when they aren't another day.).

But then there are the crummy times.  The times when the laundry is overwhelming.  When every. single. room in the house looks like a tornado tore through it.  When I forgot (again!) to plan dinner and it's 6 o'clock.  When my husband has been working 16-18 hours a day for the last two months.  When every child in the house wants to exercise his independence at the same time.  When the baby won't sleep.  When the dog strews garbage through the whole living room.  You get the idea.  At these times, I want to feel sorry for myself.  There's no happiness in sight.  At these times, though, I can have joy.  I can look forward to the hugs, the sweet words, the smiles, the snuggles, the flowers.  

The key is figuring out a way to remind myself that these circumstances are temporary and will pass.  I'll be honest:  I don't have it figured out yet.  I fail more often than I succeed, but the secret is to keep trying to succeed.  Don't give up!  You can do it!  This too shall pass.  You will make it to the other side.  

The "older women" that I have been fortunate enough to have at various stages in my life always told me, "Enjoy your children while they are little.  They grow so quickly." and "It's easier when your children are all young.  It gets harder as they get older."  I have to admit that I didn't really believe them.  But now that my oldest is 16 I think I'm beginning to understand.  Life passes by so very quickly.  We only have these wonderful blessings for a few moments in the grand scheme of life.  Certainly we can learn to endure and maybe even enjoy the "crummy" moments (and when we have little ones, they are often "crumby"!) in anticipation of the joy these little ones will bring us later -- sometimes just 5 minutes later!