Eleven hours in economy is unlikely to excite the soul. However, Thursday’s flight to Tokyo had 100 empty seats. Not only that, but no one sat next to me in the exit aisle. Hallelujah! I had three seats all to myself and unlimited legroom. Boy, was I happy!

I know our joy shouldn’t be dependant on circumstances. Jesus was filled with joy at an anticipated reward, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross,” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV11-GK).

There wasn’t much in his earthly situation to give him joy: thick-headed disciples, fickle crowds, aggressive authorities and unbelieving family to mention just a few. He was a man of sorrow (“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” Matthew 26:38 NIV11) and of joy (“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11 NIV11).

There is a distinction between joy and happiness. Joy is the settled acceptance that God is with me no matter what happens on this earth, and that He loves me without reservation, and that the rewards of the next life are going to put all the suffering into perspective. No one will enter eternity with God and discover the pain of the previous life not to have been worth it.

Happiness is different. It is temporary, and very much effected by our circumstances. That’s OK. Just don’t hold out for it. Extra legroom makes me happy, but it has nothing to do with my joy.

Malcolm Cox