Mark was 21 and dependent on drugs. Finding happiness was his big goal in life, a goal that had eluded him. Once, while talking with our family, his frustration erupted: “Look, all I want in life is happiness. I want to feel happy. Is that asking too much?”

Sadly, Mark was asking far too little of life. What he really was seeking but hadn’t realized was not happiness but joy. He couldn’t accept that real joy is a fruit of something, or Someone, much greater than happiness. He came very close to Jesus Christ—close enough to taste the life that results in the joy he so deeply craved. But eventually he walked away, only to remain unhappy.

According to Bible scholar Ian Barclay, “Happiness is not a biblical word at all. It is derived from the root to happen. Clearly, what happens to us will affect our happiness.” Joy, on the other hand, is a fruit of God’s Spirit and is not affected by good or bad happenings. Joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is dependent, as we ourselves need to be, on God Himself who dwells within us.

We should desire to have this joy in our lives, without chasing after it. Let’s live and walk in the Spirit so that the fruit of joy will naturally burst forth.