Choosing Joy Over Happiness

Many couples choose not to fight for their marriage because they already feel like they lost. They aren’t happy or satisfied with where they are, so they begin to opt out emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They look at their partner and conclude that they aren’t carrying their end of the bargain or they don’t bring them happiness anymore and they bail.

Early on Wynter and I had the same struggles, though it looked very different for each of us.

Having come from a home where her father didn’t stay the course, Wynter tended toward wanting to give up physically. It wasn’t hard for her in the early days to want to separate, even if for a few hours, when things weren’t going well.

I, on the other hand, didn’t have “quit” in my vocabulary. I was too self-righteous for that. Instead, I chose to check out emotionally when things weren’t going my way. I would pout and get quiet, thinking it was more acceptable.

Both solutions could be summed up in one wordretreat.

We were just as prone to waving the white flag as anyone else. We were deceived and, in those moments, concluded that happiness was impossible.

Thank God, we couldn’t avoid His truth about staying the course.

The author of the book of Hebrews writes, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

Jesus is the perfect example of staying the course. In the face of much greater anguish and loss, He chose to endure torture, humiliation, and even death itself to bring about deep joy for Himself and good for His bride in us.

He emptied Himself of anything and everything that would stop Him from putting us first, and now we get to enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with Him.

With that in mind, consider the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is circumstantial and rarely must be earned. Happiness just “happens.” Joy, on the other hand, is typically fought for and won when someone chooses the road of inconvenience and suffering for the benefit of someone else. Though happiness can end haphazardly, joy transcends even time itself.

Though I wish I had 15, 30, or 45 more years to love Wynter on this earth, the joy that we experienced by enduring the down times and difficult rhythms of marriage will be my fuel. That joy will drive me forward for as many years as God continues to teach me what it means to seek joy over temporary happiness.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1‭-‬2 NASB

May you choose the longer road of endurance. May the Lord open your eyes to thistoday so you can experience His joy in your marriage for years to come.

Lord, help me to see the cheapness that happiness can be when given more credit than it’s due. Help me to know deeply the joy that comes from the patient endurance as I bear with my spouse as Christ did for me.

In Jesus Name, Amen.


  • Think about your natural response to conflict with your spouse. What message does your response send?
  • Does your phone or other technology distract you from putting your spouse first? Practice turning off your devices and giving your spouse undivided attention.
  • Think of one other behavior or attitude that gets in the way of putting your spouse first. Practice emptying yourself of that behavior and putting your spouse’s needs above your own.

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