Put on a Happy Face?

Does it irk you when someone puts on a happy face when you just want them to be honest with you? One Sunday morning I was in a group meeting for the prayer teams when the leader asked us to share our needs so the others could pray. Each group only had four or five people, so there would be plenty of time to share and to pray.

One man said that he wanted to spend more time reading the Bible. I felt like this was a very safe but shallow need (legitimate and admirable, but not at this time). I challenged him to be more honest, in other words, to not put on his happy face for us. He got offended and asked me if it would be better to mention his daughter who was on drugs. Of course, it would have been better! More honest, less of a happy face for appearance’ sake. Not to mention, more of a chance for the Body of Christ to obey His commands to bear one another’s burdens

Just because he had a deep need that was tearing him up inside didn’t mean he had lost his joy. It just meant he had an opportunity for the Body to be the Body.

Lack of happiness does not equal lack of joy.

Joy is mentioned a lot in the Bible. The angel that announced the birth of Christ said that he brought tidings of great joy.  When Jesus was praying for the disciples and those who would come later (us), He said He was saying these things so that His joy would be fulfilled in them (John 17:15). Jesus endured the cross because of the joy He anticipated (Hebrews 12:2)—the joy of creating His bride and bringing His people back to Him.

My personal favorite: Isaiah 61:3. He gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. No matter what has happened in my past, He exchanges life for death, joy for mourning, praise for depression. I also love “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. Not my joy, but His. He gives me His joy, just as He gives me His love. And that joy strengthens me.

What is joy? Happiness? Nope. They certainly can go together, but joy is not contingent on being happy. Joy goes much deeper. Joy abides.cross in sunlight

Think about modern-day martyrs. Torture is common and pastors are killed for no reason other than they are Christians. They face persecution regularly, yet anticipate it with joy. They pray for courage to face death while they are still in a safe place. How?

Like all the other fruit, the only way to have joy is to receive it from God. I’ve struggled with depression for much of my life, a result of childhood trauma. I found the closer I get to God, the deeper the relationship, the more joy I find. Sometimes it’s buried pretty deeply, but it is there. I might not be happy about something like a financial struggle or missing an opportunity, but the joy abides.

One interesting thing about joy is that is that it may not be visible to the casual observer. Happiness is visible. It shows as smiles, laughter . . . you know the list. But joy is more like a deep bubbling of water. It’s more related to peace than to happiness. I think some people run from one happiness-causing experience to the next because they lack joy or because they don’t quite understand what it is.

How can you tell if joy is growing in you?

  • Are you able to worship God when things aren’t going well for you?

That comes from His abiding joy.

  • Can you see His hand working in your life even when trouble comes? When the enemy attacks?

There’s His joy, living in you and giving you strength. Building your faith. Helping you realize His love and faithfulness.

  • Can you do a simple mental/emotional “side-step” and find a pool of contentment?

Joy is alive and living in you.jumping in freedom



As with all fruit of the Spirit, don’t despair if you have trouble finding joy. Seek God; get close enough to Him to see His face and hear His heart. By His spirit, joy will surely grow.

part 4 of an 11 part series on the fruit of the spirit

Next time:Peace

Part 1| Fruit-Tastic!

Part 2| How Does Your Garden Grow?

Part 3| But I Can’t Even Love Myself!

Part 5| In the Eye of the Hurricane


Illustrations courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net