I have always been the type of person that learns best from the inverse of something, for over the years that I have been blessed with, I have found nothing that does not have an opposite. I could give you thousands of examples in this letter to you, but there are actually books that are available for purchase if you are interested in delving into the subject, and it can be quite an interesting study for it shows that for everything there is there is an opposite. Only one stands out against this fact, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the Lord our God is One. For everything else, there is two.
The vast majority of people will inform you, and possibly correctly, in the strictest terminology of the word, that the opposite of happy is sad. Both feelings can only be expressed in an emotional context, and are also dependent on circumstances, whether externally or internally provoked in us. In Romans 12:15 we are told to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” This verse is very interesting, for it commands us to exhibit an emotion, to actually modify the way we feel for the sake of others.
An example might be a day in which you are extremely elated, very happy because of a particular incident that the Lord has blessed you with, and then you meet someone who has just experienced a devastating event in their life, and the word ‘sad’ does not even begin to express their emotional state. To fulfill this verse then, you must be able to control and direct your emotions, you must be able to stop rejoicing and start mourning at will. I have never met anyone that is able to do this, including myself, and I have practiced at this endeavor for many years. We are not speaking here of complete cancellation of the emotional state, in other words, the lack of any emotional state whatsoever, for this person does not exist, nor does any creature of Gods creation, for even the rabbit runs from the wolf for fear.
Is the opposite of fear trust, safety or love? Herein lies the question then, if happiness can only be brought on by external or at times an internal circumstances, is happiness joy? In other words, do you require the emotional state of happiness in your life to experience the joy of the Lord, do things need to be going well for you, no trials or tribulations, no sadness or anxiety is being experienced by you at the moment for your joy to be full. Is happiness joy?
As I stated in the beginning of this letter to you, the inverse of a thing is how we can learn the totality of that thing, so if the opposite of happy is sad, what is the opposite of joy? Every single person, no matter the circumstances, will experience happiness in their lifetime, if even for just one fleeting moment, but only the children of God can know the Joy of the Lord. If your life is based in emotions, if you are in a sense controlled by your emotions, it will be extremely difficult for you to experience this joy in this life that we are speaking of here. Fear not, for in Psalm 16:11 God says to his children, “Thou wilt show me the path of life, in thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” This promise here tells us that we will be in the presence of joy when we get home, but why wait till then. (Gal. 5:22)
You have perhaps heard me mention that happiness is just the worlds cheap imitation of the joy of the Lord, and, yes my friends, our Lord does want us to be happy here on earth, but not only because of the circumstances that He allows to come into our lives to make this statement true, but just because He is. Those who are compelled to act or react in a certain way because of their current emotional state will have difficulty understanding that the joy of the Lord is not happiness, for when our Lord allows suffering to come into their lives, they are not happy, and without the truth of the Word of God that describes just what that joy is, they will become despondent, perhaps lose hope, and fall away from the path. You have met these people.
“No chastening seems to be pleasant at the time…” (Heb 12:11) There is a difference in those brothers and sisters in Christ who have begun to understand the difference between the words happy and joy, for they also, when these trials the Lord sends become initially sad, unhappy, concerned, but one thing they do not do, they do not become despondent, for the joy of the Lord has nothing to do with what is going on in or around them, it does not change their character in Christ one bit. When things are going ‘badly,’ they have joy, when the doctor tells them they have cancer, they know joy, when they are standing at the coffin of a lost soul, one that did not accept Christ as their Savior, they know the truth of joy. Happiness is not joy.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This is one of the verses in Scripture that is a key to the knowledge of what the joy of the Lord is, for the word ‘good’ in this verse cannot be translated to ‘so they will be happy,’ and it is not speaking for our good only, but for the goodness of God, so that the wonderful Name of Jesus will be glorified. Those who tend to feed off of their emotions, that are generally controlled by them, are seeking only one thing, their own self-interest. Those things of this world that will keep the negative feelings away, or at lest at bay for a season.
Those that seek to know the truth in God’s Word for the meaning of this ‘Joy of the Lord,’ search diligently to understand the will of God and to be filled with it, (Col. 1:9) for the knowledge of His will in our lives, and our submission to it is the beginning of joy unsurpassed.
I asked you earlier if you knew what the opposite of joy is, the inverse of this most wonderful attribute of our Lord that He desires to share with us. In my humble opinion, it is not just one word that describes it best, but three, “lack of trust.” No one who does not trust Jesus Christ implicitly in this life will ever truly know what the real meaning behind the words “joy of the Lord” means. Personally, for me, the opposite of the word trust is not disbelief, but hopelessness, for all who do not trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father, (John 14:6) will experience just that, complete hopelessness for all eternity.
Have you ever met someone like that, someone because of the circumstances in their life believes that they have reached the end, the burden is too great, a terrible hopelessness has gripped their life and all they know at the moment is complete and utter hopelessness. Are you able to control your emotions enough to mourn with them, to actually enter that dark hopeless place they are in, and then in the love, mercy and grace of our Lord, bring them back to a place where maybe just a small, tiny flicker of hope can be seen.
Here is truth, only those that truly have the joy of the Lord in their soul can mourn in love with those that are mourning, and only those whom God has chosen to know the fellowship of His Sons suffering (Phil.3:10) can rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Here I impart to you the very best expression, the most Biblical truth that I can give you of what the joy of the Lord is, it is Jesus Christ, my friends. He is not only the joy of our lives, He is joy itself.
You can have joy without happiness, you can have joy in suffering, but you cannot have joy without Christ.