Usually people use the word "Happiness" when they are really searching for "Joy." They don't realize the two words are opposites, and for the most part, mutually exclusive.

I remember being the pastor between two hurting people and hearing, “He doesn’t make me happy any more,” or “I’m very unhappy with the way she has changed over the past year.”

I kept hearing that word “happy” over and over again in counseling sessions. I was wondering how one word could cause so much pain when I came across an alternative definition of "happy" that changed everything I thought I knew about it.

We get the word happy from an old Norse word “hap,” which I am told means luck or chance. It’s where we get words like happening, haphazard, happenstance, and happen. Some times we have good “hap” and sometimes we have bad “hap.” It just seems to happen that way.

Sometimes others can “make” us hap-py for a while, but no one can do it forever. Even Prince Charming will eventually mess up and let Cinderella become temporarily un-hap-py, and vice-versa. Let’s face it. No one can live 100% “happy-ever-after” if another real person is involved.

People look for happiness in all kinds of other places besides love. They may try money, success, sex, power, drugs, alcohol, fame, knowledge, or any combination of these and other potential sources. They seem to work for a while, but the Law of Diminishing Returns says we will need progressively stronger doses of our “happy” to reach the same level until we ultimately reach the point where our "happy" is powerless, or it kills us.

During the wedding ceremony I preformed for my nephew and his fiancé, I briefly mentioned the problems of trying to find happiness together and then told them to forget trying to find happiness in their marriage; that it wasn’t going to work. Now I hadn’t told them about this part of my blessing because I wanted it to be so shocking that they would never forget my words as long as they lived. From the look on their faces and of those in the audience it was having the desired effect.

I continued, “Happiness comes from the world, and frankly, it comes from a world that doesn’t care if you are happy or not unless it can sell you something to help for a while. Now before you get discouraged, I have good news for you. There’s something that is even better than happiness. It is called JOY! People think joy and happiness are the same thing, but they are actually opposites.

“You see, happiness comes from the outside, but joy comes from the inside. Happy comes and goes, but joy just keeps hanging in there. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus never told anyone to be happy; He told them to have joy.

“The world can only give happy; but joy comes from within. God is the inventor and source of joy. He has placed a measure of His joy in each of us, and the world can never, ever, take it away. Happy always costs you something, but joy is a free gift.

“Search for joy in your love for each other, and rejoice in the unique creation that each of you are, knowing that God rejoices when He thinks of you both."

The bottom line is that God can’t make you happy. If He can’t do it, does it make sense to look for happiness in the world or from someone else? Forget about looking for happiness. It comes and goes like the wind; find joy instead.

Author's Bio: 

Pastor Jerry L. Lewis is married (same girl 43 years), a retired career schoolteacher, and loves to write and speak. Other careers have included building contractor, missionary in New York, and United Methodist pastor in Ohio. He designed and built his own website and blog to provide self help and guidance, and also to promote his first book, “What God Can’t Do.” His writing is mostly non-fiction. You’ll probably find him writing or in the back garage hatching up some new “labor saving” invention.