Discovering the Essence of Joy: Going Beyond Happiness

I was sitting beside my pool the other day, breathing in the fresh air and staring
off into space when I realized something: I was at complete peace. I wasn’t
happy, not in the conventional way, but I was joyful, and content; my spirit was
light. I felt a wave of surprise hit me when I realized this because a lot has
happened to me and my family this past year – things that stole my happiness,
gave me no reason to be joyful and had me questioning my faith.
But the more these things happened, the more I learned something I’m sure
anyone would if they just quieted the noise and sat for a moment; happiness is
fleeting and external, but joy is internal.

There was a time I thought I could find happiness and contentment in the next
exciting thing – a new house, a new car, traveling to tropical islands or even
shopping for that next new pair of shoes. And while thinking about and
even checking these things off my list made me happy in the moment, they didn’t
last. They weren’t fulfilling because I realized I was dependent on these things to
keep me in a constant state of happiness. But there is no life without chaos and
want and misery, and all of us are born with a void that needs to be filled.
However, many of us have unfortunately been filling it with the wrong
things. And doing that has left many of us with a deep feeling of discontent.

Do you often find yourself trying to fill your void with things and people? Do
you often think that you’ll be happier the moment you get this or that, or meet
this or that person? And have you done all of that and still feel empty,
unfulfilled, restless as if you are constantly in motion, seeking and seeking but
never at peace? Then you need to go beyond seeking happiness and pursue joy
instead. Because while many people think happiness brings fulfillment and have
actually made it a synonym for joy — joy is actually what brings true and deep

Joy has nothing to do with achievement, wealth, or status. It is the uncovering of
true purpose and pursuing that not ambitiously, but selflessly.
Joy is aligning yourself with who you truly are, and accepting and nurturing that
person even if it doesn’t fit into who or what you thought you’d be.
Joy is acceptance. It is not chasing, it is becoming.
Real joy goes beyond monetary pleasures and brings us to a place of lasting
contentment and peace.

Joy is also not the result of anything external or material. In fact, research has
shown that materialistic people are less happy than people who are not. Joy has
nothing to do with what you have or what is happening around you, but
everything happening within you.

I often think about the book of Phillippians and how it’s known as “the epistle of
joy.” Despite being the most joyful book in the bible, it was written by a prisoner,
the Apostle Paul. Paul had nothing to be happy about, and even as a free man he
could barely afford any monetary possessions or pleasures. Yet, he was at peace,
joyful, and content because he was living his purpose—preaching the
gospel—when he was arrested (and while in prison).

More money doesn’t lead to happiness. Social media or Hollywood might have
us believing that, but the things money can buy don’t always last. We lose them
eventually, only to begin the hunt for another.

Joy is not expensive, it doesn’t demand anything from you other than
self-reflection, personal growth and finding your purpose. Joy calls you to
prioritize self-discovery and do away with seeking validation and praise from
people who are often just as lost as you are. Why spend all that time, money and
effort, seeking happiness? Something so unbelievably fleeting when inside of
you, you have the power to be truly at peace and content?

Perhaps we shy away from joy because often, joy is discovered in the midst of
tough and impossible situations. Joy is sometimes incomprehensible. Just think
of Paul, stuck in prison yet happily writing letters to his friends—encouraging
and comforting them. It makes no sense and yet, it makes all the sense.
Why? Because that’s what joy brings out of you—the ability to find the tiniest
light in the darkest situations. The grace to truly and authentically be yourself. I
have gone through the toughest situations and discovered stillness and peace. I
have discovered joy in places I didn’t think I would.

I now know I don’t need people or things to make me happy. I only need the
truth and permission from myself to be who God called me to be. That is
where joy is truly found. And more than anything, I pray you discover that for
yourself too.

Much Love, Shyra.