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Is joy just for happy people?

I’ll never forget this conversation I had when I was a kid, which probably is totally out of context in my memory, but has stuck with me regardless. 

We often listened to the Christian music radio station in the car when I was growing up, which I always enjoyed. It being the late 90s it was the heyday of the first round of the CCM movement and a lot of now old classics were brand new. 

But then I rode in a friend's car one day and they didn’t listen to Christian music. We knew each other from Christian school and I wondered in my innocence and music ignorance why they didn’t listen to CCM like we did. 

And the mom said simply, “not everybody likes happy music all the time.“

I thought about that over and over again. 

I thought about that especially since founding a company based on Christian joy. 

I thought about that even more since going through my own losses and hardships. 

And whether that is a fair critique of Christian music or not is for other people to decide. What I am concerned with today is whether or not that’s a fair critique of Christians that evangelize with joy.

Do you really have to be happy all the time?

The answer is no. I’ve wrestled with this over and over again throughout the years and I think there really is something dangerous about equating joy and happiness in the way that our culture does. They are listed as synonyms anywhere you look and the idea of belongings “sparking joy“ as an oft-quoted decluttering buzzword. 

Is that fair?

I really don’t think that it is. I don’t think there’s any ill will in the pseudo- redefinition of joy, but I do think there is a danger in it. There’s a danger and thinking that being in relationship with Christ should lead us to always be happy in this life, when that is just so obviously and biblically not correct. 

The apostles were clearly not happy all the time. 

All of the martyrs of the church were clearly not happy all the time. 

But they were full of joy.

And this seems deeply impossible except inside the context of knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus changes everything. 

It doesn’t make you happy all the time, it doesn’t make you an extrovert or an introvert, it doesn’t make you a messy or a tidy, a procrastinator or a finisher, but it makes you the most available, joyful, and fulfilled version of yourself. 

And that self doesn’t have to feel any certain feeling, like happiness, to be in a real and transformative relationship with Christ.

In short, Joy is not just for happy people. Joy is not just for people with easy lives. Joy is not just for people above the poverty line. Joy is not just for people in ministry. Joy is not just for mentally healthy people. 

Joy is for you. 

Joy is our birthright as Christians and friends of Jesus, God and Savior of the world. 

And when we just leave that birthright in the dust, like it doesn’t really matter, like it’s just frosting and it’s healthier to go without, we miss out. 

It’s often quoted “They will know we are Christians by our love.” and that’s true. But I think it’s equally reasonable to say “They will know we are Christians by our joy.” 

We have access to a steadiness, a peace, a hope, and a clarity the world could never give. 

And that can fill us with joy unshakeable.

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