Pursuing happiness sounds like it would lead to a great life. But as we chase after positive feelings or experiences, what happens when the feeling fades? Or when our lives take a difficult, challenging turn? How can we keep our equilibrium? What will make us truly happy?  Rick Mattson reassures our restless hearts with this truth: God offers us more than moments of happiness—He offers us the fullness of His joy.

“Jesus said, ‘These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’ (John 15:11).”

“God’s joy is a ‘settledness,’ a peace. The Hebrew word is shalom: a deep sense of peace we have in our lives which goes beyond the relative happiness (or unhappiness) that we experience with the ups and downs of our circumstances each day. We seem to have this ‘pre-joy:’ we can walk into every situation and know we have the joy the Lord.”

Many times, we confuse happiness as a substitute for the fulfillment our hearts were designed to experience in serving God and serving others. Jonna Fantz says our desperation to feel happy can lead to a self-focused life, which (ironically) causes us to be unhappy:

“The ancient Greek concept of happiness is something much deeper than the temporary feeling we associate with the term today. There’s hollowness to our version of  happiness.  A celebrity once said, before her fifth divorce, that she just couldn’t remain in a relationship that wasn’t dedicated to her happiness. That’s stunning, because marriage is about so much more than our momentary feelings of well-being.”

“The ‘pursuit of happiness’ as played out in our culture often leads to diminished lives; it leads us to use others, or to destructive behaviors, because we don’t recognize the long-term negative results in the moment. Jesus is offering us something far more profound than a transient, surface-level experience of well-being. His joy is something more whole, more complete, deeper, and less shakable.

As we learn to recognize the many ways that God blesses us day-by-day, we’re reminded that we can always count on His provision and His presence: He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). What a great reason to be joyful!

“The joy of the Lord is not going to be changed based on what happens to me today or the events of my life. It’s not that I’m immune to everything around me, but overall as a general pattern in my life, I can take joy in the Lord beyond the actual circumstances.”

May the Lord help us today to remember His goodness, even when times get tough. As we trust in Christ to guide us and follow His example by serving others, we’ll see the spiritual fruit of joy in our lives. And in Him, our joy will be full!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” ( Romans 15:13).

Rick Mattson works for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a national evangelism and apologetics specialist. He has appeared at over 70 college campuses across the country, often in a forum called “Stump the Chump,” where curious and sometimes skeptical students can ask Rick any question they wish about Christianity. He is the author of Faith Is Like Skydiving and Faith Unexpected. Rick lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife and family and is an avid golfer. For more information about Rick’s resources, visit his website.

Jonna Fantz, pastor, poet and chocolate lover, has a passion to see Christ transform lives. She is worship and community life pastor at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton. Jonna has also served as a spiritual director and adult discipleship pastor at Crossroads Church and Christ Presbyterian Church. She brings all her passion to bear as she teaches and preaches, encouraging people to experience God through his word.

God's joy is stronger than our circumstances - Rick Mattson and Jonna Fantz