Although happiness and joy are often interchangeable in everyday conversation, they are not the same thing. Happiness is an emotional response to external influence; joy, on the other hand, is a habit. Joy may sound automatic, but it is a process, a commitment. The unfortunate truth is that one cannot really have joy without stress.
Much like how following God comes with trials, joy is found at the other end of stress. Even though happiness may come from little shots of dopamine when we escape our problems, true joy is found when we are able to overcome our stress. When we face our emotions, combat our frustration (not that which frustrates us, but our frustration itself) instead of running away, accept our reality, and actually deal with our problems, we will find joy at the end of the path.
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5 ESV
Notice how the verse states that joy comes after weeping. Escape and denial stunt our growth as people and prevent us from the joy that God promises. The anxieties we don’t confront will always be there in our minds, holding us back. Cleaning a messy house may indeed be an arduous task, but the end result is much fresher than before and it also allows you to see the floor.
Similar to faith, joy takes commitment. It’s not easy and we may stumble sometimes, but the only way toward it is through those emotions we don’t want to deal with. We can only grow as people and followers of God by facing our negative emotions and processing them. Then, we will have joy.