Last night, I got to see Inside Out, which was a fantastic movie! If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it; the trailers do not do this film justice. And though this movie is not a Christian film, I love one of the themes that it hits upon–a theme, which the church itself needs to work on, that it’s okay to be sad.
The church in America has confused happiness and joy.
But wait, aren’t those the same thing? If so, why did Paul write, Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Are we supposed to be happy when we loose a loved one? or when a man walks it a church and shoots several? Or do you believe that Jesus was happy when he wept (John 11:35), or when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, or when he was crucified? I say–No! God promises joy, but he does not promise happiness.
You see, what has happened, is that the church in the United States has absorbed too much of the American culture within it, including the American Dream, “the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative” (Oxford Dictionary). Doing so, happiness and joy have become synonyms of each other, though they are NOT the same.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2-3). I don’t know about you, but I’m not happy when I go through trials; however, I can find joy within them. So, if joy is not happiness, what is it? I like/agree Rick Warren’s definition of this word: Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
Nowhere in Warren’s definition, does it mention happiness.
It is okay to be sad. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh. We are human; emotions are a part of life. Even Jesus himself was not always happy, for he also experienced sadness, even anger. It is natural to be sad, to morn, and we as a body of Christ need to work on not encouraging happiness in times of dread and sorrow; but instead, encouraging joyness.