Finding Joy In The Everyday Journey

by Kevin Burton

   One of my English as a Second Language students once asked me, “Can I say ‘enjoy your joy?’”

   She and I both laughed. Peeling apart the quirks of somebody else’s language is great fun and can give you some insights into your own first language.

   I wonder though if we really have a handle on the word “joy.” How are we defining it?

   In the past I have thought of joy as a feeling of exhilaration. “A feeling of great happiness,” is how Merriam-Webster puts it. 

  “There is no explicit difference between happiness and joy. Both involve the emotions, both are pleasurable feelings, and both are mentioned in scripture in passages that equate the two, reads a passage on the website

   I turn to that website a lot, but I’m going to disagree with it, and even with the dictionary this time. 

   I think there is a useful distinction between happiness and joy to be observed, and it doesn’t take long in the Christian walk to discover it.

   “Happy” comes from the Old Norse word, which I have seen as “hap” or “happ” and speaks to chance circumstances.  Think of “happenstance” and “haphazard.”

   Joy as I care to define it, comes from having chance removed by the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary, to secure the salvation of those who believe.

   Happiness is a point in time. Joy is a path. Does that make sense?

  To illustrate the point, I want to mention the song “Joy In The Journey” by Michael Card.  The song speaks to joy not as an ecstatic romp, but as a hope based on Jesus, that carries you. The music itself is understated and soothing.

   There is no journey on earth that is 100 percent exhilaration.  Consider James 1: 2-4 (NKJV): “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

   That passage doesn’t make sense if happiness is the same as joy.  Trials don’t bring happiness but they can reflect joy if your heart is in the right place. 

   In one of Card’s You Tube videos he dedicates the song to everyone in the audience and says “If it isn’t now, I hope it will be true of your life real soon.”

   The song is short enough that I can include all the lyrics here:

“There is a joy in the journey,
There’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
And freedom for those who obey.

All those who seek it shall find it,
A pardon for all who believe.
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind

To all who’ve been born of the Spirit

And who share incarnation with him;
Who belong to eternity, stranded in time,
And weary of struggling with sin.

Forget not the hope
That’s before you,
And never stop counting the cost.
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost?

There is a joy in the journey,
There’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
And freedom for those who obey.”

   If you’ve ever seen Card in concert, you know you don’t get bombast and light shows, you get the light of God’s word.

   Joy in the journey lets me know the sun is there even if it’s not shining right now.  It’s a deep breath, a sign pointing home to God.

   I am not an expert in etymology. For all I know, Old Norse is one of the back roads in some town in rural upstate Vermont. If that part of the discussion is lacking in any way, sorry.

   You know how people write “I don’t know who needs to hear this,” before an inspirational message? It’s so clichéd people are starting to make fun of it. 

   But I know who needed to hear this message about joy today, me.  I needed to hear it. If you did too, help me rejoice in the journey.

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