Sunday, March 2, 2014

Joy vs. Happiness: why Christ is so much more filling than DQ Blizzards.

Have you ever thought about something once, and then it seems like that something comes up at least 46 times a day the following week? I hope so... or this is awkward... Anyway, that was me this week, thinking about the difference between joy and happiness. I'd never really thought about it much. I thought the two words were essentially interchangeable. But I've changed my mind about that, and here's why.

Dairy Queen Red Velvet Cake Blizzards. I don't know if you've ever had one, but if you haven't, you should probably hop in your car and head to DQ right now. (Just kidding, you should finish reading this first.) But for real, they're delicious. Every bite of vanilla ice cream with chunks of red velvet cake makes me so happy.

But unfortunately, after about 10 minutes, my Blizzard cup is empty. Lame. I'm happy for a little while longer, lingering on the thought of how stinkin' good that Blizzard was. But pretty soon, that happiness has passed, and I start looking for something else to fill that place of happiness — maybe it's a person, maybe it's reading a funny buzzfeed article about what type of sandwich I am, maybe it's watching another episode of Parks and Rec. Who knows. All that matters is that I'm constantly searching for something new to make me happy when the old happiness fades away or runs out.

That's what happiness is: something that makes us feel good for a short time. But before we know it, it's gone, and we're left with a feeling that we have to fill it's place with something better.

Now let's take a look at the other word I mentioned: joy. When have I experienced joy?

On Wednesday, at the Steve Moakler concert. He stood up on the stage with nothing but a mic and his guitar, singing one of his new songs called "Holiday at Sea," talking about how we just have no idea how spectacular Heaven is going to be. Hearing about and singing about what God has in store for us filled me with joy.

Last night, when I was in the chapel at St. Lawrence for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by about 100 of my best friends and people I'd never met. We were all there for the same reason — to adore our God, thank Him for the awesomeness He's put in our lives, and ask Him for his guidance. I just couldn't help but smile and be filled with joy.

What do both of these experiences have in common? In the beautiful words of Pope Francis, "All these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ" (Evangelii Gaudium).

And the best part? After both of these experiences, I didn't feel like I had to go run and find something else to fill me up. That's because joy doesn't try to run away. It stays with us through anything and everything. It is always present. Just like Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we don't always feel that joy, but it's always there. Pope Francis says, "I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved."

Joy is always present, reminding us that we are loved by our amazing God. No matter how delicious those Red Velvet Blizzards are, the happiness they offer will NEVER compare to the lasting joy that Christ offers to us every single day in himself and the people he puts in our lives.

There is joy in your life. Never forget it.