Happiness or Happenness

Angela Bruggeman   -  

Happy or Happen? Recently I was reading through a devotional writing by one of my favorite early 20th century writers, Oswald Chambers, entitled The Miracle of Joy. Here Chambers highlights a concept I have heard much about in my life; and I needed a reminder: the difference between joy and happiness. The misconception we often have is that joy arises out of our circumstances. Joy comes from good health, or positive feelings. But Chambers reminds us that joy, God’s joy, is more miraculous than this.

The joy of life doesn’t rely on our situations, positive or negative. This holy contentment comes from a deep sense of trust and satisfaction in God’s character to carry us through. God has purposes beyond our understanding; in fact, John tells us Jesus’ words, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full,” (John 15:11).

Happiness on the other hand is perhaps misspelled. I suggest the word should be “happenness.” Both words, happy and happen, come from the same Old Norse root word, hap, which simply means chance or luck. So, by chance, when good things happen, I may be happy. But when bad things happen, my pleasant feeling subside, and I am left unhappy. Happiness is by chance; happiness depends on what happens to me. So, I propose, we use the word Happenness to our sense of good cheer based on circumstances.

Life may bring us good fortune in the form of health, wealth, exciting jobs, nice homes, yet something remains unfulfilling if we depend on these to bring us a truly good life. We need the miracle of Joy! When we see God’s design and His Spirit at work in our lives amidst the happenings in our lives, it is then that we are miraculously transformed to walk in joy. This is a timely reminder for me as my husband and I lead three teenagers in our home. The ups and downs of school life, work life, and caring for aging parents can be wearing. I may be happy when good things happen, but this happenness will not carry me. I cling to the miracle of God’s joy!