Editor’s note: Today's article is the second in a series about "fine line" areas of our lives. Areas where we struggle to discern truth from sin. Areas we prefer not to deal with so that we can continue living on the edge, where the "fine line" is. To read about Judging vs. Accountability, click here.

Part 2: A Fine Line: Happiness vs. Joy

Lord, please bring me a spouse. I know marriage can be hard but I truly believe it will bring me joy. I would be so happy and complete. I am just so unhappy being single. 

Lord, I have worked so hard at my job and I need that promotion. I need that money. I need to buy more things, go more places, and dress better. I know if I looked better I would be much happier.

Lord, please, I pray with all my heart that my house loan gets approved.  A house would provide a place to have a Bible study and invite family. I know it will make me happy and bring joy to so many.

Lord, I don't like this storm. Bills are up to my eyeballs, my health isn't great, my family is too demanding and I am struggling. I am not happy. Please take it away so I can be happy again, so that I will have joy.

Does any of this sound familiar? How many times have we lived our lives based on circumstances? How many times have those circumstances dictated our relationship with God, with others? I have had my own issues over the years with understanding the difference between happiness and joy. I have prayed for a spouse, prayed for my finances, and prayed that God would take away my pain. Why? So that life would be better. So that life would be happier. I mean, who wants to go around in a pain and misery all the time? But what God has been able to show me has had far greater value. He has taught and continues to teach me that happiness is not all that it's cracked up to be. Happiness is based on our circumstances. Circumstances that change like the wind.

He has shown me that true joy is based on our relationship with God. That through my earnest seeking of happiness, God was trying to teach me to have joy. This way I could be happy in all situations. I could be happy without a spouse, without the bigger home or new car, without more stuff, and without that juicy cheeseburger and fries. 

So what is happiness versus joy? Is there really that much of a difference? Where is that fine line?

Happiness is based on circumstances. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being happy. I love being happy. I love getting excited about getting new stuff  or a friend coming for a visit or a cute guy flirting with me. I love getting a massage, eating at my favorite restaurant or making jewelry. Happiness is not a sin. But knowing that it won't last is the issue. Circumstances change and as a result, happiness will. 

The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy (1 Kings 4:20).

Happiness is temporary. Stuff gets old, it rusts, it falls apart. Friends and family leave, food gets eaten and you have to wait till you can afford another massage. My mother once told me the mountain top is a tiny place. The journey up to the mountain and then down the mountain is where the real growth is. As we walk up the mountain, our muscles are tested. We have to sometimes rest, pray, ask for help to continue the journey. Coming down, the path is easier but still has some danger. This is a time to evaluate the journey, look around and asess what worked and what didn't work. Then comes the valley, the lowest point. This is where we sometimes think God isn't listening. Where life is the hardest. But it really comes down to perspective. The valley is where the grass grows the greenest. And things only grow greener if there is plenty of fertilizer.