Happiness is always temporary, and always about external circumstances. It is fleeting. It is of this world. It's not bad, but it's not the be-all-and-end-all of life.
Joy, on the other hand, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a state that relies on faith, on the eternalness of God. It is a glimpse of Heaven on earth. It is what every person of faith should strive for.
Let's look at an example that gets this all wrong, shall we?
“I’m really trying not to let this experience steal my joy but it’s hard” — An owner of an Hermes bag that apparently smells like a skunk. She’s not alone; a large batch of bags reportedly smell. Devastating.
(If you're not aware, a Hermes purse can cost upwards of $20,000 easily. I'm not kidding.)
I feel bad for this lady. Not because her purse smells like a skunk (although that IS really disgusting) but because she thinks she is going to find the gift of the Holy Spirit in a hunk of leather you throw your car keys and cell phone in. She thought that by getting this purse, true joy would enter her life. See, she's confusing happiness ("I got a pretty new purse!") with joy ("I am a child of God! No circumstance can rob me of my inheritance!")
I was sifting through a bunch of old greeting cards the other day. I was both cleaning out a drawer and trying to find some materials for scrapbooking (meaning I was going to chop up the cards.) I kept a few from the kids, with their barely-able-to-write scrawls, but most of them got cut up.
Then I stopped. I found a card from my Aunt Ruth. It was a birthday card, dated more than a decade ago. Her familiar handwriting jumped off the card - a few simple sentences. That card I kept.
My Aunt Ruth was my pen pal of sorts. We wrote each other regularly, starting when I was in about 8th grade. Her letters and cards were always filled with her faith, her laughter (she had the best laugh - I cannot WAIT to hear that laugh again in Heaven!), her connection with her church, her friends, her family. She cherished people. She had a "club" of girlfriends from high school that had weekly lunch from pre-World War II until the last one died in her 90s.
Aunt Ruth is who I think of when I think of joy. Regardless of what was going on around her, she laughed, she took time for people, she listened, she prayed. She was not a prophet, but rather an illustration - a painting of the Master's hand of what joy is meant to be.
She would have laughed at the poor lady with the skunky person. Not to make fun of the poor woman (really: poor. This lady has no idea what wealth means), but because Aunt Ruth knew that joy was not to be purchased, or draped over your arm. It is an rich out-pouring of a God who cannot be out-spent, out-done, out-lavished. And that is joy.