Choose Joy Over Happiness

wife eating apple husband eating burger
Jojo Ensslin

It's been said that opposites attract. In my marriage, that couldn't be truer. My husband, Rick, is definitely a Tigger — an optimistic extrovert and a glass-half-full kind of guy. On the other hand, I am an Eeyore, introverted and convinced the glass is half empty. As a young, dating couple, Rick and I found these differences intriguing. As newlyweds, our personalities clashed and created painful conflict in our marriage.

Does this resonate with you? Marriage is often not the fairy tale we expect. So what do we do when happiness eludes us? We choose joy.

As my perspective has matured over the years, I've learned to appreciate the personality differences between Rick and me. Especially because those differences have taught me not to equate happiness with joy.

When everything was going well, Rick and I concluded that we had joy. But when troubles came, that joy was often exposed as flimsy and undependable happiness. We quickly learned that happiness wasn't enough for us; we needed something sturdier and more reliable. We needed joy — true joy that can only come from God.

Joy is not dependent on what happens to us as a couple. It is the settled assurance that God is in control of the details of life, the quiet confidence that everything will be OK and the determined choice to praise Him. Marriage has been the best testing ground for learning that God is the only constant in a world of ever-changing economics, health, relationships and unexpected events.

I used to think life was like a series of highs and lows, but now I believe life is more like a set of parallel train tracks, with happiness and sorrow running side by side. I can easily gravitate toward the sorrow side of the tracks, while Rick more naturally veers toward the happiness side of the tracks. But we've learned that both of us are right in our perceptions: Happiness and sorrow are a part of our existence. Regardless of the emotion, God's joy can be present.

It's easy to let circumstances (happy and sad) steal the joy out of what God designed as a good marriage union. But when we choose joy over happiness, we discover God's hidden blessings in the good and bad of life — and in the differences between us. Joy is a choice, and I'm grateful Rick and I, as a couple, have learned to make that choice every day.  

Kay Warren, cofounder of Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick, is an international speaker, Bible teacher and author of Choose Joy: Because happiness isn't enough.

Based on research and experience from Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, Focus on the Family has created valid and reliable questions that evaluate the strength of your marriage. Take our free assessment now.

This article first appeared in the October/November 2012 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "A Quiet Confidence."
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Copyright © 2012 by Kay Warren. Used by permission. From the Focus on the Family website at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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