Wait a minute! Aren't joy and happiness the same thing? Doesn't our happiness increase when our joy increases? Well let me explain...
I have learned that happiness is dependent on our circumstances. For example, in 4 Nephi 1:15-16, we learn that, for a time, there was no envy, strife, lying, murdering, etc., and that, at that time, there could not be a happier people created by God. Because their circumstances were good, the natural result was happiness. I mean, don't we all feel happy when our lives are going perfectly, when everything is falling into place just as planned, or when everything feels good and right? I certainly felt happiness this last summer when depression was not a part of my life for a few months and when everything seemed to be smooth sailing.
Joy, however, is not dependent on any circumstances. It is something we can feel regardless of what is happening around us. It's something we can feel, even in the midst of painful trials, even when the hardships of this life steal our happiness for a time, and even when we feel weighed down with sorrow. Isn't that amazing?! We can feel joy and sorrow at the same time, whereas happiness and sorrow are opposites and cannot co-exist.
All of this means that...
- NO ONE or NO THING can steal our joy (John 16:22). Joy is a choice that we must make and that we can make every day.
- We can find more joy as we experience more misery, because our misery helps us recognize joy (2 Nephi 2:23).
- We were created to have joy, even through our difficulties (2 Nephi 2:25).
How is it possible to have joy during times of sorrow, misery, and pain?As President Nelson explained in this last General Conference (in his amazing talk about joy):
We can find joy in our trials, knowing that they are helping us to become more like our Heavenly Father and that our reaction to them will help qualify us to return to live with Him again. We can find joy in the Atonement, knowing that Christ experienced everything we experience and that He is here to help us through our difficulties. We can find joy through the resurrection, knowing that someday all our tears will be dried and our broken hearts will be healed forever. We can find joy in service, in loving others, in being thankful, and in praying, especially when we do these things through our struggles.
The Savior is our greatest example in all things, including in finding joy. In Hebrews 12:2, it teaches that Christ was able to endure the atonement because of the joy that He felt. This amazes me. How did the Savior feel joy through what was the most difficult thing anyone has EVER had to experience? It's so simple, yet so profound. He thought of us. He thought of how I would one day suffer from depression, and I would cry out, "Why doesn't anyone understand?" and how, because of His experiences, He would be able to reassure me that He does understand. He thought of how each of us would need Him at different times in our lives, and that brought Him joy through His immense suffering.
I still have so much to learn about joy and so much room for improvement in finding joy through depression and through other struggles, but I am so thankful to know that joy is always possible! I'm thankful that I have a Savior who truly does understand everything I feel and experience and that He is the one who can help me find joy.