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Joy vs. Happiness: What God Taught Me When I Moved to a New City


One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy. (Galatians 5:22). Joy is a gift that we are given when we are in Christ. We can carry it around with us no matter where we go or what our circumstances are. Joy gives us the freedom to not be controlled by our surroundings or our circumstances. We have the freedom to be joyous and not to allow anything else to steal it from us.



Has anyone every looked at something and thought: “If I have that, then I’ll be happy.” Maybe it is a relationship, a spouse, a degree, a job, a house, money, a pet, a car. For me it was moving away from the prison of mountains in West Virginia and to a big city. I wasn’t happy in West Virginia. I was surrounded by nothing but stifling mountains, poverty, drugs, and boredom. When I was in Houston, I was happy. I was surrounded by buildings, opportunities, culture, diversity, and a beach. Of course, I was happier; my surroundings were better, and my future was brighter.



But something that God taught me about happiness is that it is fleeting, it is temporal, and it can change in a moment. We cannot elevate the things that make us happy to the joy that only God can give us. We cannot be dependent upon happiness to be the source of our joy. Because like I said, happiness can change in a moment. The spouse or the pet that makes you happy today might irritate you tomorrow. The money or the job that makes you happy today might be taken away from you tomorrow. Circumstances change. Happiness changes. But God NEVER changes.



Even though I was far happier in Houston than I will ever be in West Virginia, the joy that I carry around with me in Houston was the exact same joy that I carried around with me in West Virginia. I also had a rude awakening when I truly believed that moving to Houston meant that all of my problems, insecurities, and issues would go away, simply because I was happy where I lived. But God proved to me otherwise. There were times when I was homesick from missing my family and friends in West Virginia. There were times when I was struggled to make friends and to meet people that liked me and I wondered if I even belonged in Houston.


I have battled social anxiety and depression even after I moved to Houston, just like I did in West Virginia. God showed me that moving to a new place, getting a new job, getting married, or any other life change cannot fill the God-sized void in your heart nor can it give you joy that only the Holy Spirit can. I was putting too much faith in Houston to give me joy that I ignored God and forgot that bringing me joy is His job.



2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “He who is in Christ is a new creation.” Notice that it does not say that “he who moves to a new location is a new creation.” Also remember that Paul found joy, even though he was in prison. Your location does not and should not determine your joy, it should be Christ that determines your joy. When you are in Christ, joy should be the goal, not happiness. Carnal things might bring happiness, but Christ alone is the one that brings joy.



“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”Nehemiah 8:10




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