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2012 – Happiness Or Joy?

Rob Ferguson recently reported in The Star that according to the findings of the first annual global happiness poll by Leger Marketing, “Canadians rank 23rd in the world, when it comes to happiness.” (Friday, December 30.2011)

I found it interesting that Canada tied with Japan, a country that experienced an earthquake, a tsunami and nuclear problems -devastation that deeply affected every aspect of daily life for Japanese people. David Scholz, executive vice-president of Leger interprets this outcome by flippantly concluding that, “the human spirit is always looking for a way to lift up.”

Hmmm…. Is it? I’m not so sure. As I look around, I see the heaviness of everyday life wearing spirits down. I see hopelessness, pessimism, cynicism, doubt, fear, depression,anger, unresolved loss, anxiety, fatigue and loneliness. (If I’m honest with myself, I recognize some of these realities hiding in my own heart at times.)

I’m not convinced that everyone’s spirit is looking for a way to lift up – I think many people are desperately looking for a way out.

I see a broken world, heaving for relief.

And in the midst of this reality, I don’t think it’s the happy people who rise above adversity – I believe it’s the people who know joy. Unshakeable joy doesn’t rise and fall with the changing circumstances. I love what Frederick Buechner says about this issue.

Happiness comes when things are going our way… Joy, on the other hand, does not come because something is happening or not happening but every once in a way rises up out of simply being alive, of being part of the terror as well as the fathomless richness of the world that God has made.

A joyful heart is one that has been fortified by resilience and sustained by hope.

Maybe us Canadians just demand too much and we’re sorely discontent – perhaps that would explain why we rank 23rd out of 58 countries in “happiness.”   Maybe we just depend too much on pomp and circumstance out there  instead of peace within for a fulfilling life. According to this survey, Afghans (ranked 36th) are happier than Americans (ranked 38th). Maybe the more affluent a country is, the less likely people focus on the “fathomless richness of the world that God has made”.

The simple things in life, fully perceived and experienced as gifts from a loving God are priceless and spirit- enriching.

I remember singing an old camp song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart..down in my heart to stay.”It’s joy -not happiness – that I want to pursue… joy that stays put in my heart, no matter what happens in my life.

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