To it the kitten replied, “I’ve been attending cat philosophy school and I have learned that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and that happiness is located in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it: and when I catch it, I shall have happiness forever.”
Laughing, the wise old cat replied, “My son, I wasn’t lucky enough to go to cat philosophy school, but as I’ve gone through life, I too have realized that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and indeed that it is located in my tail. The difference I’ve found though is that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business and live my life, it just seems to follow after me wherever I go.”
I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecc 1:14)
Yes! However you can get Joy!
You see what we all really want is not actually happiness, it's joy.
Do you know where the word "happy" comes from? Understanding this will help you see why it has never been happiness that we wanted.
The word "happy" came into being in the late 14th century and it quite simply meant "lucky". Think of how we use "hap" in other words. Haphazard, Happen, Happenstance - it is to do with luck, or chance. The word "happy" means a lucky event that happens to you. That's why we can't find it. Even if we stumble across something great, the chances are it will vanish away like the wind in no time at all.
However "joy" is a completely different concept. God does not offer fleeting, lucky happiness, he offers eternal, situation-independent joy. God offers us a gift - a gift so precious that if we consider it for a moment we will be blown away. He offers to give us the Spirit gift of joy.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace (Gal 5:22)
Happiness is what I call the "Disney World" Experience.
You can be in the most amazing place ever - let's for a moment accept that Disney World is such a place. For many children this is the case. This is what they would define as pure happiness. All the posters depict beaming faces, laughter - happiness.
Yet this is merely "happiness". A temporary state. In fact by the end of the day when everyone is tired - too much sun, sugar, food, rides - the smiles are gone (see kid in the middle).
It does not matter if you are in the most amazing place on the planet, the slightest headache, the slightest discomfit, and the happiness evaporates like mist in the sun.
Joy is what I call the "Prison Song" Experience.
By contrast we have an amazing example of the Prison choir. Peter and Silas are rocking it out - singing with all their might to God. Pure Joy! Are they at a worship service with flashing lights, great company, good food? No. They are in a prison, with dirty prisoners around them, whipped backs and no food. Yet their circumstance makes no difference to their joy. The joy they feel is inside, eternal, from God. Their joy is real, amazing, awesome whether at Disney World or in prison - there is no luck in it - only God.
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison...About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:23-25)
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. - Jesus (John 15:11)