bigger than happiness.

Boat sinking  

Happiness is a lie.

And if you live chasing untrue, you spend your days batting at the wind, pulling for an idea that can’t deliver what you think you need.

Happiness will leave you longing for more in its coming and going.

Life unfolds messily mostly without us knowing quite how things will end up.  At best, we can work hard to create the life we think we want.  My schedule fills and my life tightens in my reaching for better, for more, but more often, I find myself worse off the harder I work for what I think I need - in the restless pursuit of happy moments.

You would think the more happy I gather together, the more satisfied and settled of a life I’d lead.  But still, I’m empty in the in-between and hungry.

This manic going after of life is tiresome and besetting.  In this way, happiness is an absolute lie.

If life is measured in how much happy moments we have together, our family is failing and we are taking on water faster than we can bucket it out.  We live in stiff, isolating  moments between laughter and lighter times when we’re all smiling and having a good time.  When we do fall into happiness together, it’s euphoric and addicting, but it cuts when it’s done and we fall out of it disjointed again.

Happiness is a drug we’re all jonesing for.

But there is a better way.


For me, joy is the result of love decided, rooted and held to in the swell of good and bad.  It is remembrance that life is not about us, but about something so much better and bigger than ourselves, our dreams and desires and our expectations.  Joy undoes happiness as ultimate authority on how our life measures up.  Joy lifts us in the low and enlightens us all the more in the highs.  It is no secret passage or mediative state to reach when you’ve learned to manage and re-architect disappointment with hold-your-breath positivity.  No, joy is an acceptance that all of life is good and waiting to be lived.  Joy is Heaven’s call now flooding through happiness to penetrate our feeble hearts and remind us that all shall be well, both now and in the life to come.


seek thou joy.

“Go forth, my heart, and seek thou joy.”Paul Gerhardt

Joy is found by those who search and see.

Shuffling in a life less than, marred by mistakes, taken by circumstance, wilted in days echoing hollowly.  It is easy for feet to falter and each day constrict to the size of a moment.  There, stuck and wandering, life memorialized.  Some stay in that spot for years wondering how life seemingly went so wrong.  And some never take another single step forward, only steps circling, while observing others they know and don’t move with the appearance of effortless grace.

Not only are steps still, but the heart is captive to the moment, too.  Joy alludes. Life free from pain, agony, tragedy and all that gives cause for worry and fear waves in the heat of day as a mirage in the drier times of life experienced by all.  ...by all, that is no overshoot.  Everyone goes through tough times that try our resolve and dry our souls a bit squeezing out most reason for joy.

Life doesn’t wait for anyone.  It isn’t concerned with fairness, doesn’t respect where you’ve been or who you are.  Life unfolds as it will into each day.  We must decide how we will live it.

Much of relearning life for me has involved opening to joy again.  Not mere pockets of happiness oscillating in changing days and temperature, but happiness lasting and independent: joy.

In days darkened by tragedy and grief extending into the unseeable future, happiness filled my life in predictable reprieve.  A good conversation, an entertaining movie, immersing myself in hobbies and activity, et cetera, all gave way of escape and lightened life.  My eyes lifted out of the drudgery of life as it existed then and looked for a time when all would be lighter and happy lasting.  Joy continually escaped me.  The feeling just wouldn’t stick.

Happiness is a fleeting drug lifting for a moment vanishing the next without trace.

What we miss as hands frantically reach for happiness running is everything now.  And that’s really all there is, now.  Because happiness doesn’t last, we chase hard in pursuit and rush through now to the next lighter moment.  Happiness delivered a smile, but never penetrated my to heart causing an engulfing, sad detachment and confusion between my heart and my head.

Joy sets a course aright, fills in cavernous cracks and strengthens bending knees.  No matter the day or the straining conditions, joy gives life to a weaning heart.

I found joy scattered along the broken path in the easiest places positioned in plain view everywhere I was not looking.  Happiness busied me in its coming and going and blurred my sight.  My eyes always looking to spy the next opportunity for happiness while missing joy all around.

Joy exists much closer than you often think.

In a sunrise.  A smile defiantly worn on my daughters’ faces in grieving times.  A call from a friend.  Laughter.  Health.  Home.  Making dinner again as a family.  Stories and hugs at bedtime.  Weary but honest smiles early in the morning marking another day lived together.

And the list grew larger in endless mundane, but infinitely saving detail.

Thankfulness led me to joy.  And there’s an abundance of joy to be had right there in our lives despite the height or weight of circumstance.  As I slow to assess all of life actual existing immediately around me, I have much to be forever thankful for.

The secret to joy lies nestled in the day-to-day of life.  We miss its simplicity in our hurried attempt at happy.  I began to make lists and jot down.  The idea for thankfulness lists came from a book I read entitled, “One Thousand Gifts,” by Ann Voskamp.  Cataloging all reasons to be thankful gave endless cause for joy.  I go back to my lists in thinning moments and difficult days and no matter the conditions, joy rises.

And so for me, releasing my heart to seek after not mere happiness, but joy again, has been in allowing my heart to attach to everything I have reason to give thanks for.

Now I see with much more definition and clarity all that matters and all that I want for us.  My heart has honest room for newness.  I don’t feel as though I’m reaching and grasping for happiness any longer.  Joy simply and fully expanded my heart narrowed in grief preparing it for what’s new.

That is joy on top of joy.  Joy exponential.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17, ESV