By Ernest O'Neill

What is Real Happiness and Joy?

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

You could call this morning’s subject, “Happiness: “What is Happiness?”  The title isn’t important.  God did seem in the night to make a phrase real to me -- though like so many other things you wonder, “What did he say to you?”  But it certainly was very real when it seemed Jesus spoke of himself to me.  It’s the phrase in John 15 -- and it isn’t even the first part of it – he first says, “Abide in me.  I am the vine and you are the branches.” He then says in 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you.”  That is, “all those things that I just said have spoken to you.”

But what he seemed to say to me, somewhere in the twilight hours or in the middle of the night, “That my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”  It just seemed to come so vividly to me that that’s why I’m saying it this morning because I want to share what God says and not what I say: “That my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”  It seemed obvious to me that he was seeing the joy that I have.  That’s the joy that is to be in you: “My joy and then, your joy.  Your own joy will be full.”  And that’s the way our life will work together.

I looked up the Greek word for “joy” and it’s “chara” in English.  It means “cheerfulness or calm delight”.  Of course, it’s not whoopity-whoop joy but it’s just a calm delight that is always with you whatever.  Jesus is saying, “That is the joy that I have and that is the joy that is in you if you are in me -- and you ARE in me, so that’s the joy that you will have, my joy.”

I think our trouble is that we’ve been used to eating the food that the swine eat.  I think we’ve been used to make-do joys so that we’re almost addicts to those joys  -- not only addicts but it’s a bit the same story as they found in introducing instant coffee here in America.  Eventually, when somebody brewed real coffee Americans thought, “That isn’t real coffee,” because they got so used to instant coffee.  It’s a bit like that.

We get so used to the substitute joys that we can’t conceive of the real joy.  Often the real joy doesn’t seem terribly joyful to us despite of the fact that the substitute joys that we have turn out to be very superficial, shallow and transient, too.  But we kind of get used to them and we get addicted to them.  So this joy that Jesus talks about at first sight seems kind of boring: “a calm delight” -- that’s what it is you know.   Indeed, one of the definitions is “cheerfulness”.  We kind of think, “Oh, cheerful!”  We used to have a program on English radio and this person used to say, “Oh, it’s being so cheerful that keeps me going,”  -- and of course, he wasn’t cheerful at all.  So often we think of cheerfulness as kind of, “Oh yeah, keep your heart up.  Be as happy as you can.”

So often we think of “cheerfulness” or “calm delight” as, “Well, it’s okay you know, but it’s not nearly as wonderful as a great football match or an exciting ride on water skis or all the other wonderful things we could do here on earth.”  I think that a great deal of our difficulty in finally going for Jesus’ joy is that we have so many other joys that we’ve kind of got used to – yet, we know in our hearts that they are often based on no reality.  They are often based on just the fact that this experience is new to us.  Paris is exciting the first time you see it, but you get used to it after a while.  Many of what we call “joys” are kind of transient things that are almost more dependent on the surprise factor than on any real deep reality that is in them.

We know in our own hearts that the joys that we’ve got used to don’t actually succeed in helping us when life gets hard -- but, we are used to them.  I think that’s one of the reasons why we have difficulty with this joy that Jesus talks about.  HIS joy is absolutely and utterly different from what we, in this fallen world, call “joy”.  And what I saw was that part of our difficulty is right there.  We keep thinking, “Oh well, surely the things that we think of as joy, surely there is some element of real joy in them?”  Well I think there isn’t!  I think probably there isn’t.