I’ve heard about the difference between joy and happiness, but this summer, I am learning it personally.
Happiness comes from outside yourself – good fortune, wealth, life running smoothly. But this summer I am with people who are in the midst of crises and lives that have hit rough spots. None of them are happy about it, but some of them do have joy. It can be almost tangible, the sense they exude of peace and contentment, even when they are suffering.
Joy comes from within, it is part of a person’s essence. Both theologians and psychologists describe this capacity that people have (or don’t) to rise above tough times, to be resilient, to find meaning in their circumstances.
I cannot give anyone joy – although perhaps I can give them happiness from time to time – but I hope I can help them honor, discover, or recover the joy within them. I know that they do it for me. Sometimes watching joy sustain a person in pain touches a place of joy in me and reminds me to nurture this inner resource.